Entrepreneurs spy ‘root’ into sports & energy drink space

By Lynda Searby

- Last updated on GMT

'We both found that mainstream sports energy drinks would cause stomach discomfort during runs...'
'We both found that mainstream sports energy drinks would cause stomach discomfort during runs...'

Related tags Alcoholic beverage functional beverage beverage

The first production of a new ginger-based sports energy drink is currently underway, after raising over £6,500 (€7515) in pre-orders through a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign.

In the space of a month, 121 backers from around the world pledged the cash to help bring Active Root to market.

Active Root co-founder, marathon runner, ironman and tri-athlete, Will Townsend, said this figure had exceeded their target by 10%, but that the start-up’s next challenge was to sell the rest of the 1000-unit batch within the next two months.

Active Root​ is relying on its online shop as the main source of sales, but Townsend said the company was “starting to talk to”​ high street sport retailers.

“We’re not going to approach the big chains just yet. We’re trying to get a feel for where Active Root is best suited,” ​he told NutraIngredients.

The energy drink, which has an RRP of £19.99 (€23) for a 1.4kg tub, blends cane sugar, ginger, vitamin C and citric acid in a powdered formulation that Townsend and his friend and co-founder George Ashley came up with at home.

“We started off making it in liquid form, but soon realised the complexities of this – it would need refrigerating in-store and would be more difficult and costly to distribute, so we moved to a powdered format,”​ explained Townsend. 

The concept for the drink stems from the founders’ own experiences as athletes.

Gap for a natural gastric settler

“We both found that mainstream sports energy drinks would cause stomach discomfort during runs, so we thought: why not make a drink that is kinder to the stomach but offers the same hydration and energy?

“We agreed on ginger as the main ingredient, because it has been used for years for reducing nausea, bloating and sickness. We thought that if we could put it in the context of a sports drink, it was definitely worth a go,” ​said Townsend.

Whilst ginger is the star of the show, the use of cane sugar as a sweetener, rather than, say, glucose or maltodextrin, is key to the drink’s positioning as a gentler, more natural alternative to sports drinks such as Lucozade and Gatorade.

“Cane sugar is more natural and not as harsh on the stomach as glucose. One of the reasons people might get sick drinking energy drinks during sport is that glucose is an aggressive molecule for the stomach to handle,”​ said Townsend.

Firm enough foundations?

Active Root does not have any EU-approved health claims to draw on in its marketing, in which it claims that ‘the natural ginger in Active Root has been scientifically proven to relieve nausea, bloating and stomach discomfort’ and ‘ginger alleviates gastro-intestinal discomfort before, during and after exercise’. However ginger’s efficacy in reducing sickness and nausea is fairly well documented in peer-reviewed academic studies.

The company has also conducted its own study, which showed that Active Root compares favourably to other sports drink brands in terms of reducing exercise-induced gastro-intestinal discomfort, and is collaborating with Edinburgh Napier University on a second study – this time looking at how cane sugar helps to reduce gastro-intestinal symptoms, said Townsend.

With a contract manufacturing arrangement in place, Active Root has the potential to ramp up production, but Townsend knows that financial backing is probably a prerequisite to growing the business.

“Ultimately, we are looking for an investor to enable us to scale the business up,” ​he said. “We wouldn’t be in the market if we didn’t think it was worth a shot.”



A new NutraIngredients and European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) congress held in Frankfurt on November 28 the day before Health Ingredients Europe ​will place your business front and centre of the playing field be it in supplements, herbals, powders, mixes, drinks, bars or gels.

More information here​.

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