Australia’s Savvy Beverage calls for greater honesty and transparency about ingredients content among functional beverage firms

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Savvy Beverage claims to be the first Australian company that incorporated nootropics into its functional beverages. ©Savvy Beverage
Savvy Beverage claims to be the first Australian company that incorporated nootropics into its functional beverages. ©Savvy Beverage

Related tags functional beverages nootropics Australia Cognitive health

Aussie brand Savvy Beverage has called out what it believes is the prevalence of highly priced functional beverages that contain inadequate beneficial ingredients, imploring greater honesty and transparency among companies to advance the emerging category.

Owing to research that suggests the benefits of nootropics on brain function and cognitive performance, these compounds have increasingly been applied in dietary supplements and functional foods.

An example is Australian firm Savvy Beverage​, which produces functional beverages containing vitamins, nootropics and herbal active ingredients synergistically blended to “overcome mental barriers while meeting cognitive demands”.

“Dose is very important when it comes to nootropics. When we started Savvy Beverage in 2016, there were no other products in the market that had nootropics in them. If I look at the market now, there are about 15 brands.

“The issue is that we have 20 times more healthy ingredients than everyone else, which means they’re not making [products] with the correct dose. Consumers have the expectation that this drink is going to give them energy and make them feel amazing, but they aren’t going to feel any effect when the ingredients are little,” ​Mark Curry, founder and CEO of Savvy Beverage, told NutraIngredients-Asia​.

According to Curry, the brand’s products are formulated by health professionals and nutritionists, unlike many other products in the market.

“There are lots of scientific evidence showing that the content of our ingredients can bring about benefits. As a nutritionist, I firmly believe that if you’re going to make a nootropics product, you have to use the right amount of ingredients, so people get an actual benefit.

“There are lots of products out there that do not tell you how much ingredients are in there, and this is done on purpose. The label claims that the product contains ‘special ingredients’, but it doesn’t tell you how much because it only has a tiny bit. For example, we’re using 9g of nootropic ingredients and the closest product [to ours] only has 5g.”

Additionally, Curry reckoned that many functional beverages, an emerging category in Australia, have been created in response to the rising demand and for profit purpose.

“More and more people are looking for no-sugar, better-for-you options that incorporate nootropics, adaptogens, vitamins, etc. This has led companies to think that their products would sell just by making these claims.

“It’s all marketing, but it shouldn’t be marketing as it is unfair for consumers who want a health benefit. When people pay for function, you should give them function. This is the main thing that we’re trying to do here at Savvy — be the example of how products should be. I want other products out there to be really good, so it would encourage us to be better.”

Cost barrier

At the same time, Curry admitted that cost is a major barrier for companies to add more active ingredients into a formulation.

Furthermore, extra costs are incurred when sweetening or flavouring ingredients are added to improve the taste of a product, especially as ingredients such as ginseng, ashwagandha and rhodiola typically do not appeal to the palate.

“If a formulation uses a little bit of turmeric and a few other ingredients, the taste is barely affected and so the drink is cheap to make. There are companies that purposefully keep their prices high despite the low product quality because the average consumer tends to think thathigh price equals high quality.

“From what I understand, we are the most expensive drink in Australia to make since we use so many healthy ingredients. The cost will be lower if we put less stuff in, but I don’t wish to because I want our products to have maximum benefits. I want our competitors to increase their ingredients content, not us reducing ours to match them.”

Undeterred by its high production costs, Savvy Beverage intends to keep its prices accessible for a wide range of customers.

“I could raise the price of my drink [from AUD$5 (USD)3.26] to AUD9 (USD5.86), but some people, such as students, may not afford it anymore. That is why we keep our price the way we do.

“Consumers don’t know how much ingredients they need; they just look at the words on the labels. They presume that a health or nutrition company would put in enough for them to get a benefit. They trust the company to do the right thing, but that’s not always the case.”

As such, the firm plans to roll out a campaign to inform consumers on the amount of ingredients they should be getting in products in order to obtain real benefits.

“It is going to be a little bit cheeky, but people deserve to know. We are going to start doing more education.”

In addition, Savvy Beverage touts the recognition it received at the 2023 Telstra Best of Business Awards as proof of the quality and superiority of its products.

“It is the biggest business competition in Australia, and we are the first company in 27 years to get to the finals in three separate categories,” ​Curry reiterated.

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