Gagliardi also had experience working on the SoBe brand back in the day, so he’s no stranger to the ready-to-drink market. But it was his experience as an athlete that was most formative, Gagliardi said.
“I am a very active person and I played college sport,” Gagliardi said. “I wanted to create a really clean tea-based beverage that also had good functionality.”
Gagliardi said he chose tea as a base because he grew up drinking it. But most of the mixes and ready-to-drink mixes of his youth tended to be overly sweet and were made with highly processed ingredients such as spray dried tea powder. Gagliardi said he was looking for something that could function in the health food channel and would fit in with the yearning among consumers of energy beverages for products with more natural ingredients.
“I wanted to come up with a very clean label beverage,” Gagliardi said. “I grew up drinking tea, but a lot of those products are very high in sugar. And I wanted to source from fair trade tea estates.”
Titan Tea is based on standard black tea, sourced from fair trade estates in Sri Lanka. The company also adds an electrolyte blend to aid in hydration, Gagliardi said. In addition, the company adds natural caffeine from green tea extract.
In combination with caffeine, the principal energy ingredient is D-ribose, a monosaccharide that is produced in the body but not found in food that has been studied for a number of health properties. In energy formulations is included because of some studies that show that supplementation with D-ribose can boost ATP production. The product is also lightly sweetened with fair trade organic sugar.
“We knew the benefits of natural caffeine that comes from drinking tea. It is especially effective when you combine it with the ribose,” Gagliardi said.
Caffeine on labels
The amount of caffeine in energy drinks has been a matter of concern for some members of Congress in recent years after a spate of adverse event reports connect to several well-known energy brands.
The stated concern is that energy beverages are marketed to a younger, theoretically higher-risk set of consumers, and the packaging and marketing encourages rapid consumption. The Food and Drug Administration has weighed in at several points in the process, saying that 400 mg or less of caffeine per day per average adult does not seem to pose a public health risk.
Nevertheless, Gagliardi said he is sensitive to the concern, and the bottles currently list the caffeine content as equivalent to a cup of coffee per bottle. That equates to 80 mg per 16 ounce bottle, Gagliardi said.
And as far as labeling is concerned, the company is in the process of relabeling the products to a single serving per bottle label. For the initial launch, which rolled out in June, the company was listing two 8-ounce servings per bottle. Breaking bottles which seem to be intended for single-occasion consumption up into multiple servings on labels has been one of the politicians’ criticisms of the energy sector in general.
Certifications in progress
In addition to the recalibrated serving size, the new label will feature fair trade, non GMO and organic certifications once those are completed, Gagliardi said. As that process is finished by the first quarter of next year, the company will seek broader distribution beyond the 450 or so health food stores in the Northeast where the tea line debuted this past summer.
“We were getting a lot of inquiries abotu that from our customers. With tea, fair trade is a huge topic. It takes time and money to get those certifications,” Gagliardi said.
One thing the company won’t change is the bottle design. In an effort to stand out from other ready-to-drink teas and from energy beverages in cans, Gagliardi came up with a distinctive bottle that looks like two quadrilaterals with one inverted and stacked on on the other.
“We need to be able to compete with the coconut waters, the Red Bulls, the Monsters of the world. I learned the imporance of IP. I wanted to create something that looked different at retail, and we have design patents on the bottle shape,” Gagliardi said.