Oliver Bennett, from the UK, is currently touring the world competing in the extreme-e championships, but he managed to find time to talk to NutraIngredients about his startup company XITE. The brand was originally launched as a solution to unhealthy energy drinks on the extreme sports circuit but has been rebranded with a focus on nootropic content and the range has just been expanded to enter the bars market.
28-year-old Bennett explains he has been interested in health and nutrition since he was young, partly thanks to his involvement in amateur racing, and he even chose to complete an additional degree in Nutrition ‘as a hobby’ while he was a Economics and Business student.
“That was when I became aware of nootropics and the benefits they have on the body and mind. I was really interested in these just for my own benefit initially, for my training as an motor sports driver.”
The supplements may well have boosted Bennett's performance as his skills led him to become a professional driver within a few years of finishing university. It was working in this industry that he witnessed the proliferation of caffeine and sugar laden energy drinks.
“I was surrounded by Monsters and Red Bulls and friends of mine were sponsored by these brands. But looking at the ingredients lists there were ingredients in there I didn’t even recognise, despite having done a Nutrition degree.
“So XITE was borne out of my desire for a better-for-you energy drink with added nootropics to benefit the mind.”
With initial funding provided by his father (also a successful entrepreneur and business owner) and in partnership with his girlfriend Megan Jones, Bennett formed the brand XITE in 2017 and the couple brought their range of two energy drinks to market in 2018.
Still sold today, the canned drinks – available in peach and passionfruit or raspberry and watermelon – are all free from sugar, artificial flavours and preservatives. They contain panax ginseng, tyrosine, carnitine, zinc, b-vitamins, and natural flavourings.
The drinks were quickly listed in Holland and Barrett stores throughout the UK and customer feedback was that the drink provided an energy boost without the crash you get with caffeine and sugar.
Originally, the drinks were packaged and marketed as a healthy alternative to other energy drinks, but the team decided at the beginning of lockdown to rebrand and focus on the nootropic element of the drinks, calling this out on front of pack and differentiating further from other energy drinks on the market with bright and gender-neutral colours.
At the same time, the team decided to expand into the convenience snacks market as they felt there was a clear gap in the market.
“Although we are not the first to have the idea, we are the first to execute it well in a vegan bar. The USA have some nootropic protein bars but I challenge you to actually eat one! It is very difficult to incorporate nootropic ingredients into a protein bar format without issue with flavour, mouth feel and odour.
“That’s why we spent nearly two years developing our two SKUs that we are really pleased with.”
Available in salted caramel or white chocolate cookie flavour, the bars contain 18g of protein, 2g of sugar, 14g of fibre, and many of the same nootropic ingredients as are in the drinks, plus Lion's Mane mushroom, bacopa monnieri, and iodine.
The bars launched D2C online at the beginning of October but a number of retailers have already shown interest so Bennett expects listings will come in the following months.
Bennett brings a level of prestige to the brand as the cars he drives in the FIA World Rallycross and the USA Nitro Rallycross are branded with XITE. Plus he is currently driving for the Hispano Suiza XITE ENERGY Team in the Extreme-E Championship. This global event takes electric off-road formula 1 teams around the world, to locations significantly impacted by climate change, including Saudi Arabia, Senegal in Africa, Greenland, Sardinia, and Dorset.
Bennett says the drinks and the bars have a natural appeal in the e-gaming market so the team is marketing to this audience via influencers in that space, plus Bennett is known by racing e-gamers as his character and car appear in the off road arcade racing game Dirt-5.