“Athletes are being misled by beetroot products that are not labelled with their nitrate content, or by beetroot products that do not provide an adequate dose of nitrate per serving,” said Beet It brand manager, Jonathan Cartwright.
Cartwright explained this labelling coyness by pointing to a 2018 study that found many beetroot drinks and supplements contained nitrate levels below the 300mg efficacious dose backed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and in some 200+ peer-reviewed studies.
“Our data reveal marked variation between different products and often even between different samples of the same product,” researchers in that study concluded.
Lawrence Mallinson, the managing director of UK-based Beet It and owner of James White Drinks, added that achieving beetroot nitrate potency
and consistency was a supply and formulation chain challenge not paid due respect by many manufacturers in the sector.
“Beetroots have highly variable nitrate content and unless you try very hard – as we do – to ensure the beetroot juice is highly concentrated in a way to protect the nitrate – there is likely to be little there,” Mallinson said, noting a consumer would need, “293 pills of one particular product to get the nitrate equivalent of one of our Beet It shots.”
The IOC in a 2018 consensus statement found nitrate could aid muscle function and athletic performance when consumed at daily doses of 310-560mg.
‘Beet It Sport Nitrate 400’ 70ml shots each contain 400mg of nitrates sourced from British and German beets and bottled in the UK where the firm is in the midst of a €500,000 bottling capacity upgrade.
Despite that IOC endorsement, no health claims exist for beetroot nitrates in the strict European Union, and so Beet It bears no sports nutrition claims in that part of the world, although communications are more expansive in the US.
“We can make substantially more claims in the US because we can back them up with serious scientific evidence if challenged,” Cartwright said. “The US is strict about unjustifiable claims but is more permissive about letting claims being made in the first place. We should be bolder in the US – we are on the US website.”
Mallinson said the firm had no intention of applying for a health claim in Europe.
“The situation with EU health claims is nuts. We have a huge body of science behind Beet It shots however the rules of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) health claims approval system are such that there is no incentive for us to seek an approval.”
The broader population
2020 had been a challenging for Beet It with so many sporting events at both elite and amateur levels cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but it still saw good growth in markets like Taiwan (+23%), the Czech Republic (+82%), Poland (+39%) and the US (+60%).
“In ‘normal’ times we exhibit at major exhibitions like Ride London and marathons like London, Amsterdam, Athens, Paris, Chicago and Boston,” said Cartwright.
“These events attract masses of enthusiastic sports consumers who are interested to learn and use a natural means of improving their performance. Our plan is to expand our exhibition attendance across Europe and US, to continue to access and educate the broader population about Beet It Sport.”
While Cartwright says the firm wants to move more firmly into the broader amateur sporting world, the shot drink has won most exposure at the elite level with professional endorsements coming from athletes and teams in a range of sports including football, rugby, cricket, running, triathlon, ultra-marathon, American football, cycling and a host of Olympic disciplines.
It is an official supplier of the NN Running Team which Kenyan marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge is part of, and Welsh Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas is a Beet It user.
Beet It has a concentrated version and an organic version which accounts for something like 20% of revenues.
In December, Beet it won Best Sports Drink and Best Pre-Workout Product at the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance Awards.