By Valarie Johnson | Oct 14, 2013
Employees: 4 full time, 10 part time
ZUM XR’s manufacturing is part pharmaceutical, part food and beverage – ‘new to the planet’. Managing growth may be a more earthly challenge.
This is a revolution going on in the beverage industry.
“We are in the early stages of companies blending pharmaceutical applications into food and beverage; this is new to the planet,” says Robert Niichel, Founder of Zum XR. “This is the first time that there is an extended release, a time-release beverage anywhere. It is a superior delivery mechanism and we see that in pharmaceutical products.”
The United States sports performance, energy, electrolyte and functional beverage market is approximately $11.3 billion per year. Currently, there are no other sport performance drinks that utilize an extended release of caffeine platform.
How exactly did this marriage of science and natural energy drink evolve?
“Five, six years ago, for a long bike ride I would typically mix something with energy, Mountain Dew, Diet Mountain Dew, and Gatorade,” says Niichel. “I always liked a little bit of caffeine and electrolytes. There was not a product on the market that had both. In the pharmaceutical industry we used to make products that were time released in tablets and capsules. I thought that would be pretty neat if you could bring that technology from the pharmaspace through a tablet or capsule and bring it into a beverage.”
After lots of research, development, trials, testing and 3 patents later, Zum XR was born.
“It’s all about the beads, the time-release energy beads,” says Niichel. The tasteless beads release electrolytes and natural green tea caffeine over a five-hour period. The caffeine content is 200 milligrams per drink, 60 of which is released immediately and the rest over the course of 5 hours. “It prevents high caffeine overload and is better for your heart,” says Niichel.
Zum XL is available in four flavors and they all have the same functionality. “We use pure cane sugar and natural green tea,” says Niichel. “We also have two additional products that are only 10 calories and are sweetened with natural Stevia.”
“The big take home is that with all the other energy drinks, coffee, soda, you drink it, you get a big hit of caffeine, it is an immediate release and then it wears off fairly quickly,” says Niichel. “You come down and you crash with them, but not with Zum XR, which is important to our active customers here.”
Location means everything to Niichel, “Colorado is a hub for outdoors and exercise. If you are going to build a company that is around athletics, outdoors and endurance, Colorado is the place to do it. You can build a lot of visibility and a lot of chatter here.”
Creativity, originality and growth are key factors for Niichel’s vision. “From a business model, if you can have an innovative product, you have a patent and it is scalable, that then becomes attractive to shareholder value and possible merger or acquisition possibilities.”
Niichel says Zum XR caters to a demographic that is not being served currently, “If you look at typical energy drinks in a can the demographics there are a little younger, say 25 years or younger and more male dominated. This goes right in the middle, 25-65 and a lot of the people are a little more educated and a little older, men and women alike.”
Marketing efforts are focused primarily on health and athletic groups of consumers. “We are a healthy, clean, naturally compelling proposition and we try to tie into certain sectors like bicycle racing. We sponsor bicycle and triathlon events in Colorado and those same people typically shop at Whole Foods. From there, we branch into the more main stream. The next three to roll it out are Sprouts, King Soopers and Safeway.
“So many people in this world just punch in and punch out. I get to work on something that is really cool and it fits a need. It is exciting to work on something that promotes health in a pioneering way.”
Challenges: “Since we are in a consumer space the challenge is growth and figuring out how to dial into that consumer psychology,” says Niichel.
Opportunities: Licensure is on the horizon for Niichel, “Right now we are building on branding Zum XR, and also licensing the technology.”
Needs: Though he is currently debt free and primarily self-funded, raising additional capital is the biggest need for Niichel, “Like any company growing, our number one need is capital. We would like to ramp up manufacturing infrastructure.”