Johannes Schröder and Philip Brohlburg, co-founders of Ahead Nutrition, met as professional soldiers when they enrolled into German Armed Forces University to study industrial engineering in 2012.
Brohlburg says the rigorous training sparked a shared interest in methods of 'self-optimisation'.
“Studying and training at university we needed to be sharp and on point," he told NutraIngredients.
"You can’t afford to have a mid-afternoon slump and you always have to be able to make decisions quickly, sometimes in dangerous situations.
“So how to improve our performance, sleep better and avoid the afternoon slump were daily questions we were trying to solve.”
According to the founders, ‘biohacking’ is still a very niche market in Germany, but Schröder became passionate about this type of science while doing his thesis at the University of California where he saw how popular the concept had become over there.
Schröder told NutraIngredients: “I could see this was a booming industry in the US and knew it was becoming more popular in the UK which suggested it would soon become a big opportunity in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.”
But it wasn't until he started to suffer from recurrent health issues from a prior spinal injury and he had to leave the armed forces, that Schröder decided to turn his passion for biohacking into a business venture.
Brohlburg shared Schröder’s passion for self-optimisation through science-based supplements and wanted to help create a range based on a holistic health and performance philosophy.
“With Ahead, our vision is to share our knowledge and help people achieve their best performance every day," explains Brohlburg. "We believe that there is much more potential in us, physically and mentally, than most people would think.”
Mind and Mood
Using their own savings, the men launched Ahead Nutrition in Hamburg in June 2017 with a three-strong ‘Performance’ range of products named Sharp Mind, Deep Sleep and Bright Mood.
The partners say these are still the most popular products in the range because customers find they can immediately feel the benefits.
The range has since been extended with the newest addition being their protein bar with added DHA Omega-3 to support mental and physical performance.
The products are formulated in close collaboration with scientists to make sure their make-up has the desired effect on the brain and body. Piperin has been added to all supplements as a bioenhancer and no artificial additives are used.
The duo say the USP of their products are the science-based formulations, which create optimal bioavailability.
“To improve bioavailability in our products we make sure that all our ingredients interact with each other so the body can absorb all vitamins and lead to a more powerful and immediate effect. All of our products can be taken daily and together.”
The Omega Bar – available in Salted Caramel, Lemon Cheesecake or Chocolate Peanut – is made with whey protein, oats, DHA and EPA. The founders claim this is the first time DHA has been extracted from a plant source and made into a protein bar.
Daily Sunshine vitamin D3 drops provide 1000 IU per drop with a neutral flavour making it easy for consumers to get their daily dose of the sunshine vitamin in just one drop. Consumer can even be put the drops in their coffee or tea. Bioavailability is enhanced with MCT oil from coconuts.
Sharp Mind, formulated for better concentration, contains vitamin B5 and B12 as well as L-Carnitin for energy. It also contains the Brahmi plant which is used in traditional Indian medicine for mind health. The founders point out that some research has suggested the plant might protect brain cells from chemicals involved in Alzheimer's disease.
Deep Sleep has been developed for better sleep and recovery. It contains the sleep hormone Melatonin combined with Zinc and Magnesium for improved bioavailability.
Bright Mood has been created for general wellbeing and reducing stress. It works by keeping cortisol levels low and serotonin high with B Vitamins and Serotonin plus L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP; the essential amino acids that convert to Serotonin.
The Gut Care capsules contain 18 bacterial strains microencapsulated for optimal protection of lactic acid bacteria from stomach acid. Zinc is also added to support cognitive function and the immune system.
Mag Complex combines tri-magnesium dicitrate and magnesium bisglycinate. The citrate compound has been added to help with absorption while the glycine compound protects against possible irritation of the mucus membranes. Vitamin B6 has been added to improve absorption and processing of magnesium.
The Total Omega product benefits from microfiltered EPAX omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D3, K2 and the antioxidant astaxanthin. Mint oil has also been added for fresh breath.
The products are stocked in 30 of Hamburg’s pharmacies and 150 drugstores in northern Germany.
The online shop is open to German and Swedish customers, with the Swedish store launching just last week. UK customers can also access the range via Amazon UK.
This year, the entrepreneurs want to grow and extend their reach in Germany with the help of a 1.3 million euro media deal with the leading startup investor ProSiebenSat.1 Accelerator.
Brohlburg explains: “We want to use this budget to initiate advertising on TV and invest more into influencer marketing as this is what we are all about - Creating a community to help and offer advice to athletes and everyone interested in performing better.
“We will continue to provide biohacking and lifestyle information to the best of our knowledge. At last we see a lot of potential to win over customers in the Ready-to-consume market with our new launch, the Omega Bar.”