Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus
Is there mushroom for better research? Brain-boosting coffee creator sets sights on curing disease
Moving from basketball court to coffee shop, Stipe Rezic, has turned his hand to entrepreneurship with his functional coffee brand Mushroom Cups selling drinks claiming to awaken shoppers’ ‘inner genius’.
The former Croatian national team player says it was his experience as an athlete that first inspired his interest in functional foods.
“From the age of 18 to 20 – 10 years ago now - I played basketball at a high level. We had exhausting workouts and used a lot of supplements and I found that my body reacted badly to all of them,” he told NutraIngredients.
“That’s when I started experimenting with functional mushrooms. I found that these helped me a lot to perform better and be focused and energetic.
“But what ultimately pushed me to make the mushroom coffee was when my father, who worked in the chemical industry, began to suffer with very bad allergies, most likely from exposure to chemicals, and nothing the doctor prescribed helped him.
“My cousin, who has a degree in biology and chemistry, made a supplement with mushrooms. But my father would forget to take them so I put them into his coffee and he had that every morning and afternoon and after one month of drinking that all his rashes were gone.”
After speaking to friends and colleagues, Rezic was convinced to turn this discovery into a business venture with his friends Morten Smalby, Ante Dagelic and Toni Trivkovic all offering up investment.
After two years of R&D and a lot of coffee and mushroom tasting, Stipe and his three investors founded the company in April 2017.
It launched with the two products which still make up the brand today; Go Fresh for anti-ageing and skin and hair regeneration and Go Sharp for increased endurance and stamina.
Packaged in fully recyclable, reusable tubes, both products also promise to increase productivity and energy levels, boost brain function, increase memory, stimulate the immune system and fight cancer cells.
Rezic, who also holds an M.D. in computer science, says his range has a broad appeal as his coffee can help anyone looking boost their energy, nourish their brain and reach their full potential in all areas of life.
He is right that many people want brain-boosting products; consumer research has shown shoppers are increasingly interested in food and drink that can influence their overall wellbeing and help them to ward off the signs of ageing including depleted brain function.
Rezic says he tested every functional mushroom on the market and ultimately chose the mushrooms highest in the nutrients that most people are deficient in.
“The place we started from, our home Croatia, has beautiful intact forests full of wild chanterelles – mushrooms with delicate taste, fantastic aroma and even better chemical composition.
"They are very rich in vitamin D and have among highest known natural concentrations of B vitamins, which play a fundamental role in converting food into energy, serotonin production and triggering enzymes involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth.
“Chanterelles are indispensable ingredient in every MushroomCup and will help you kickstart your day."
The second mushroom chosen was the Chaga mushroom, which Rezic argues is a ‘cocktail of extraordinary complex life-enhancing phytonutrients’.
“It has impressively high ORAC scores which stands for food’s ability to protect against premature ageing, age-related memory loss and neutralisation of the damage done by free radicals. On top of that, chaga gets its distinctive dark colour because of its very high melanin content. Melanin is the main pigment present in our skin responsible for its health and keeping it beautiful and supple.
“Our Chaga has more than 30% Beta glucans responsible for boosting your immune system and often prescribed as a remedy to people with allergies and infections. Chaga has a long and successful history with treating cancer.”
The coffee also contains Cordyceps, which is an ancient Tibetan mushroom said to have a libido boosting effect.
"It has unique chemical composition that can alter the way you feel and perform," says Rezic. "It has been scientifically proven to increase the cellular energy production and oxygen uptake. It is widely used by professional athletes as a natural supplement for keeping their body and brain efficient and energised.
"Cordyceps is a bidirectional modulator with both potentiating and suppressive effects on the immune system, which means it makes our immune system smarter and adaptable.”
Ultimately, Rezic’s vision is to make enough money to be able to fund further scientific research into the healing potential of mushrooms.
“Mushrooms are the ultimate superfood. Their healing properties range from significant neurological activity improvement, across strong antibacterial, antiviral and anti-aging properties, all the way to fighting stress caused cellular damage and exhaustion.
“I believe there’s huge potential in mushrooms that has been under investigated. I think they have the potential to heal all kinds of different diseases. We would like to be the ones to extract that potential and see how else they can improve human performance.”