Matcha buzz for millennials: Start-up launches naturally caffeinated energy drink

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Matcha Works' sparkling matcha energy drink range
Matcha Works' sparkling matcha energy drink range

Related tags Green tea Energy drink plant-based milk functional beverage beverage

A UK start-up blurring the lines between ‘classic matcha’ and ‘energy drink’ has developed a caffeinated beverage for millennials. FoodNavigator spoke to Matcha Works co-founder Harvey Hodd to find out how the sparkling drink sets itself apart in both beverage categories.

Matcha Works will launch its sparkling matcha energy drink on 1 March 2019. Targeting 18 to 30-year-olds with demanding urban lifestyles, the brand proposes ‘every day energy’ harnessed from natural matcha tea.

Matcha, a traditional Japanese drink, is made by crushing green tea leaves into a fine, bright green powder before being mixed in with hot or cold water. According to Matcha Works co-founder Harvey Hodd, this process leaves many of the nutrients untouched.

Matcha is made by crushing green tea leaves into a bright green powder (Image: Getty/ansonmiao)

“The general idea with a normal green tea is that you have a leaf infused with water,”​ Hodd told FoodNavigator.

“With matcha, it’s a similar leaf, but it is ground down and dried out into a powder. You consume the whole thing, so it is full of natural caffeine and natural antioxydants. It’s basically less ‘infused water’, more ‘straight up leaf’.”

RTD competition? ‘The idea of energy and peak performance is dying’

This focus on natural caffeine, rather than on high-sugar energy, is just one of the ways the start-up sets itself apart from potential competitors, according to Hodd.

“We are trying to blur the lines between ‘matcha’ and ‘energy’. There are other matcha offerings, but they [lack] the added functionality of ours. They’re more a [simple] matcha offering, for someone that enjoys the taste.”

In the ready to drink (RTD) energy drink market, UK supermarket shelves are dominated by well-known brands including Red Bull and Monster Energy. However, according to Hodd, Matcha Works is not trying to convert the classic energy drink consumer either.

“We feel that this idea of energy and peak performance is dying and think the war is now on consumers every day – so focus and fatigue, especially for an urban demographic.”

“We class the Red Bull consumer as the ‘doesn’t care’ consumer…They understand that Red Bull isn’t that healthy for them, it comes with some sort of [energy] crash, but they don’t care and will drink it many times over,” ​he continued.

Instead, Matcha Works is targeting the health conscious consumer. “We’re more ‘everyday lifestyle’, or ‘commuting’, or that ‘run at lunchtime’,” ​he continued. “We’re going after the consumer that drinks coconut water or cold-pressed juice, [or might] turn to a cold brew coffee for an energy boost rather than an energy drink.”

Expanding on a plant-based milk range

The sparkling matcha energy drinks, available in flavours lemon and lime; watermelon; and ‘straight up’ natural, join Matcha Works’ existing line of matcha green tea ‘m*ilks’.

The three varieties of plant-based milks – almond, oat, and coconut – have experienced growing success as the alternative milk market expands in the UK.

“The products have completely different taste profiles,” ​explained Hodd. “We have [perhaps] seen better traction with our almond version, because we feel that consumers are…more familiar with it.”

matcha image now
Matcha Works' + Plant M*lk

However, as the oat milk alternative sector grows, driven largely by the success of Swedish firm Oatly, so too are sales of Matcha Works’ oat matcha drink.

“Two to three years ago, you didn’t see oat-based milk in…the higher end cafes, even in London. Its rise has been pretty phenomenal,” ​said Hodd.

The introduction of matcha products into big food and drink chains has also contributed to awareness, and as a result, sales, he continued.

“The likes of Pret a Manger and Starbucks incorporating [matcha] into their menu in the UK has been really great for us, especially with plant-based milks as well. Starbucks offers similar milks to us, and it allows consumers to try the product in a more mainstream setting before they are able to try one of ours.” ​ 

Targeting the digitally native

Matcha Works has recently launched an ordering platform via the smartphone app WhatsApp, and according to Hodd, the start-up may well be the first fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company to do so.

Matcha Works has launched a WhatsApp ordering platform (Image: Getty/Ar Ducha Misfa')

“We want to speak to our consumers in a slightly different, more engaging way,” ​Hodd explained. “Newsletters, slow email customer support, long checkouts on website all feels a bit tired. We wanted to make it seamless for our consumers to speak to us 24/7 in a more colloquial manger…and be able to order with one click for next day delivery.”

Matcha Works’ sparkling matcha energy drinks will be available in WholeFoods and via WhatsApp from March 1, at a RRP of £1.99 (€2.28).

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