Gavin Black tells BeverageDaily.com he wanted to develop a “more user-friendly and approachable product” for the mainstream market – namely, for environments such as the office where consumers are less used to whey protein, long the preserve of fitness freaks and bodybuilders.
Two years in the making
His solution is Twist – which uses a 250ml PET bottle fitted with a patent-pending filter to stop any lumps forming when the drink is prepared – the consumer simply adds water to get a 90-calorie drink that delivers 17g of protein and 73mg of caffeine using real espresso coffee.
“Because it’s a 250ml bottle – that needs a filter. It’s taken two years to get the product sorted and it took eight revisions of the filter design, because it’s such a small bottle,” Black tells Ben Bouckley.
“It’s very much like iced coffee, and we’re now developing a vanilla and coffee flavour. Further development down the road could be potentially coffee and chocolate, while the longer-term goal is a non-caffeinated version for use as a general protein drink,” he says.
“But we don’t want to do that too early because that makes us more like a ‘me too’ product.”
Prominent soccer team tests Twist
Black agrees that the drink could tap the growing trend towards beverages that also fulfil the function of a snack – as a morning, lunchtime or afternoon snack or pick-me-up.
He admits that early adopters are likely to be the “fitness people who already know about protein”, but says that as time goes on the brand hopes to expand beyond that as education on the benefits of protein in general drinks achieves wider acceptance.
Distribution is always a major challenge for beverage startups, but Black says that grocery chain Ocado is looking at Twist, while sports nutrition e-commerce platform General Nutrition Centers (GNC) has already reviewed it and said they’re interested.
“A prominent football team tested it and said they would continue to use it but need it to be batch tested and tested by [quality assurance body for sports nutrition products] Informed-Sport. So we’re looking to do that too – it could be a good relationship,” he adds.
Beauty and cosmetics crossover?
Twist’s initial focus is online sales via its website, Amazon and online partners that differ from outlets such as Monster Supplements that don’t suit Black’s target demographic.
“There’s an online company called Feel Unique – they do beauty products – that would the kind of company that could help us get where we want to go, but of course explaining the benefits of protein to them is potentially a challenge,” he says.
“We’re also targeting health stores, and are talking with a couple of distributors to hopefully take it global before the end of the year,” Black adds.
‘A lot of people just want an easy fix’
But has Black hit upon the right formula for success? “The challenge we have is that you have to add water to the drink. Some people could question – is it a step too far? A lot of people out there just want an easy fix and an instant drink. If we can sell the benefits of it then we think we’ll be alright,” he says.
“Looked at from a carrying point of view it’s very light and portable – if it’s not in liquid format the shelf life is longer, it doesn’t start to degenerate like other protein drinks do.” Black adds. “So it certainly has its benefits, and they tend to outweigh the negatives.
Then there’s mainstream appreciation of protein in the UK and Europe – in terms of European Food Safety Regulation (EFSA) approved benefits – maintenance of normal bone and growth or maintenance of muscle mass – how is this developing?
From Maximuscle to Mo Farah
“I think it’s coming without a doubt. There were a couple of adverts last year for Maximuscle, trying to push their RTDs with a guy in a suit, which breaks it down. But the product name there pushes it away from the mass market,” Black says.
“But then other recent TV adverts from Dannon – pushing their yogurt with protein, Quorn with (UK Olympic gold medallist) Mo Farah stressing the benefits of protein.
“So I think it’s coming and in the next few years we’re going to see bigger companies pushing the benefits of protein, because it’s another avenue to sell, ultimately,” he adds. ”So hopefully we can jump on the back of that.”