Oxygen waters as a purported functional beverage have been on the market for years, but until recently there was little beyond anecdotal evidence to support their efficacy. Formula Four founder Blair Bentham said he believes OxiGen, which is marketed both as a beverage and as a shot product positioned as a dietary supplement, will change that landscape, because it is based on a proven technology whose physiological effects have been backed with clinical evidence.
“We have been in the beverage space for about 28 years as a copacker,” Bentham told NutraIngredients-USA. “The category itself has been around for decades. We used to package oxygen waters going back to the ‘90s.”
Bentham said the difference with those early examples was that when oxygen was infused into the water, it didn’t want to stay there. There was little data about how much extra oxygen went down the consumer’s hatch along with the water.
“The problem from the beginning has been efficacy. Oxygen as a gas is highly unstable. When you package this in a PET plastic bottle, that plastic is porous, so the oxygen will cross that barrier over time. So the problem consumers ran into is by the time they consumed the product, little extra oxygen was left. So they were paying a lot for basically purified water,” he said.
“Some folks tried to get around this by packaging the products in glass bottles. But you still have the problem with most of the oxygen escaping after you cracked the cap,” Bentham said.
Formula Four has a proprietary formula that combines water, oxygen and sea salt in multistep electrolysis process that creates a stable molecule with four oxygen atoms, as opposed to the element’s standard O2 form as a gas. Bentham said the company has proven the stability of the formulation via shelf life testing.
Does more oxygen really help?
The other question surrounding these products has been the purported physiological benefits. Oxygen is of course vital to life, but what evidence is there that oxygen absorbed by means other than lung tissue improves health or performance? And is there any backing for the notion that somehow getting more of it than you can by just breathing is of any benefit? Up to now, there hasn’t been much, but that’s something Formula Four is changing, too, Bentham said.
The company commissioned a study that was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Titled “Ingestion of oxygenated water enhances lactate clearance kinetics in trained runners,” the randomized double blinded, crossover study of young, trained male runners found that use of the product (which they dubbed OS, or Oxygen Supplement) did not boost performance, but it did enhance recovery.
“Despite no evidence of improved exercise performance, ingestion of OS did enhance post-exercise recovery via increased lactate clearance,” they wrote.
Evidence of efficacy key to FC Bayern deal
Bentham said other two other trials are ongoing and should be ready to be submitted for publication in the first quarter of this year. One focuses on the product’s effects on high intensity burst training, while the other looks at potential hangover recovery benefits. Bentham said having research backing was what helped get a foot in the door with perennial Bundesliga champion FC Bayern, which is one of the biggest global sports brands. The club is among the world’s most valuable sports franchises as ranked by Forbes magazine with a 2017 valuation pegged at $2.7 billion.
“We were introduced to FC Bayern in the summer of last year. Having a study published in a respected journal was important to them. They first started using our products during a series of friendly matches in China in late 2017 and we just returned from meeting with them in Doha, Qatar, where they were using our products at their winter training camp,” Bentham said.
Bentham said Formula Four plans to use the FC Bayern partnership to expand distribution of the product, which is already being sold in the US, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. New markets that will come online this year include Japan, India, China and Kuwait.
“We play in the functional beverage space. That category is on a massive growth curve not only domestically but also globally. Consumers and moving away from energy drinks with chemical type ingredients toward more of a natural product. You can see that from the acquisitions that have been made by major beverage players in the past year or so,” he said.