Expo West is one of my favorite shows because there’s always a plethora of new caffeinated products and health beverages to sample. Enjoy the highlight reel below, and stay tuned to GreenEyedGuide as we review these products in further detail in the coming months.
One day. I had one day to explore Natural Products Expo West 2016, and that one day was Sunday — the day when the show is open to the public, and all the kleptomaniacs turn up in droves to try to snag free samples and any unattended products. (Yes, I witnessed this first-hand) Some vendors don’t mind the “grabi-grabbies”, and other vendors try to give out as many samples as possible to lighten the load they have to fly back to headquarters. Suffice to say, it’s a It’s a crazy-fun show, with unusual products and an even more diverse group of people. Read more →
You know that scene in Wall-E where he tries to put the spork in the right pile? (Fork? Not quite. Spoon? Not quite. Okay then just set it in the middle.) Wall-E’s struggle in this scene is actually a very real problem for the makers and consumers of caffeinated beverages.
If health writers want to know if products like Mio and Crystal Lite stick packs have increased water consumption, what should count as “water”? When does water stop being water? When parents want to know if minors are drinking fewer energy drinks, do we include the caffeinated waters? It’s not really an energy drink, is it?
At GreenEyedGuide.com, we’ve been highlighting “energy drinks in disguise” for a long time. When Beverage World came out with their list of Beverage Disruptors, I was very happy to see a few familiar faces. These “disruptors” are not just causing classification problems, they’re creating sporks.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A DISRUPTOR?
In the fitness world, we say, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t CHANGE you!” Beverage World’s list of beverage disruptors features “people driving the enormous degree of change that’s reshaping the beverage business.” These people are driving change and breaking stereotypes. If I had GreenEyedGuide jackets to distribute, these people would be in my club for sure.
MEET THE SPORKS
1—Avitae (Norman Snyder)
Food Dive predicted a trend in 2016 of a DECREASE in sugar-sweetened beverages and the INCREASE in tea and water. Food Dive also reported that caffeinated water will impact not just soda consumption, but energy drink consumption as well! Avitae is the ace up one’s sleeve in any “energy drinks are toxic” debate because this product is water and caffeine. It’s certainly closer to water than anything else, but it serves to both hydrate and energize. Oh sure, we can use the incredibly vague term “Functional Beverage” to categorize products like this. But if the function is to provide energy, it is an energy drink. [Avitae was the Energy Drink of the Month for April 2014 and April 2015]
2 – Bai (Ben Weiss)
Take the press’ love for the word “superfruit” and the public’s love for coffee, then sprinkle in the food scientists’ concern for reducing food waste and VOILA! Behold, the coffee fruit, or “coffeeberry” as it’s also known.
Bai poses problems for juice and water categories as well. It’s only a tiny faction (<10%) juice, but it’s more,…well…exciting than water. Guess we’ll call this one another “Functional Beverage”, but what, exactly, is the function? Hydration? Not quite. Delivery of antioxidants. Kinda. Energy. With 78 mg of caffeine per bottle, this is another energy drink in disguise! [Bai was the Energy Drink of the Month for February 2016]
3 — Runa (Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie)
In a world where cell phone carriers constantly slander their competition to improve sales, Runa sells their primary ingredient to their competition! Runa’s mission is to “lift the living standards of the Ecuadorian farmers who harvest the company’s supply of guayusa leaves” (Beverage World Jan 2016). Therefore, the more people who buy the leaves, the better. So even when you buy Runa’s competitors, Runa wins. [Runa was the Energy Drink of the Month for February 2015]
4 – Steaz (Eric Schnell)
Steaz co-founder Eric Schnell is on the Beverage World disruptor’s list for his current entrepreneurial efforts, but it’s worth noting that he first made the Beverage Disruptors list with the production of Steaz. Steaz is soda and tea, hence the clever name. It’s “green-tea soda”, and it’s organic-certified.
Organic green-tea soda. Did you ever think those words together would make sense (or cents)? [Steaz was Energy Drink of the Month for January 2015]
5 – Elite Ops Energy Strips (Ray Welch)
These caffeinated versions of those convenient Listerine dissolvable strips aren’t beverages, so they could not make the Beverage World disruptors list. However I would be amiss if I didn’t include these game-changers in my own list. I haven’t seen anything like these strips, but they are absolutely essential for long drives, sequential flights, and boring lectures. These are what you use when you want the caffeine boost without opening that tell-tale PSST of an energy drink, the long wait for gross-yet-pricy convention center coffee, or the concentrated caffeine delivery of an energy shot. [Elite Ops Energy Strips were Energy Drink (alternative) for September 2015]
Sept 2015 Energy Drink alternative of the Month
I was just starting college when Monster Energy came along. Back then I had twopart time jobs and the determination to get my Biochemistry degree in four years. Nowadays, my energy needs have evolved, just like the needs of so many other energy drink consumers. The modern energy drink consumer is looking for energy drinks with added functionality such as hydration and extra protein, says Mintel research (Beverage World Jan 2016), Fortunately, for caffeine lovers everywhere, the energy drink market is evolving to meet our needs. My challenge to you is to consider these disruptors next time someone implies that (all) energy drinks are the same.
Though some media outlets continue to paint all energy drinks with the same brush, the number of “energy drinks in disguise” is growing. Unless you’re at an airport, it’s getting easier to find an energy drink with less-than-extreme amounts of caffeine, no sugar, and no artificial colors or ingredients. You might even know someone who’s tried to sell you an energy drink that can only be found online [buyer beware].
With the number of energy options increasing, it’s growing more important to learn what distinguishes one energy drink from another. Through every Energy Drink of the Month post, we review the tools you need to consume caffeine safely, and discuss how to tell if an energy drink is right for you — as in YOUR lifestyle and diet goals, and YOUR current energy needs or “Level of Fatigue”.
Do you believe in destiny? I’m not talking about “That wizard came from the moon” Destiny; I’m talking about strange coincidences that catch you by surprise and make you smile. This month’s pick happens to be the source of such a surprising coincidence. It’s a product I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, but was waiting for the right opportunity. Little did I know the stars would align when that opportunity came along.
The Energy Drink of the Month for January 2015 is Steaz Blueberry Pomegranate Organic Iced Green Tea.
Other flavors are available, but I’m always a sucker for the blueberry and pomegranate flavors. Steaz also makes an unsweetened iced tea, but I prefer a little sweetness to cover the bitter tannin tea notes.
NOTE – this product only has about 15 milligrams of caffeine, so it’s a very weak energy drink, Fatigue Level 1 for sure. Steaz also has an energy drink line (100 mg caffeine per 12 oz can), but I’m not a huge fan of their energy drink line and I’ll explain why later.
5 Reasons to Love Steaz Iced Green Tea
ONE- When the Stars Align
Aside from being a potentially great tattoo or necklace charm, the Steaz logo has an intriguing story. See for yourself.
Since I write the Energy Drink of the Month blogs the weekend before the 13th, I just happened to be watching the NFL Division Playoffs all weekend. That’s when I saw it:
Since three of the four quarterbacks playing for a spot in Superbowl XLIX wear number 12, I find the significance of number twelve in the Steaz logo highly amusing. But there are other, more significant reasons to like Steaz.
TWO-Green Tea-based Beverages
Chemically speaking, caffeine is caffeine is caffeine. The molecule itself and the effect this molecule has on the body does not change based on the source of that molecule. However, there are “food matrix effects” that can have their own influence on the body. Think of all those little creatures that attach themselves to sharks and whales. Like the shark, certain molecules don’t just float around all by themselves, they form attachments to other molecules, which can change the behavior of each. This is one reason it’s so hard to prove the health benefits of antioxidants – take them out of a food and it’s rare to see the same physiological effect. Eating concentrated blueberry powder is just not the same as eating whole raw blueberries.
The food matrix effect is why I prefer to get my caffeine from green tea. Of course, coffee provides a plethora of health benefits, but tea is the second healthiest beverage on the planet, second only to water. The health benefits of coffee and tea are beyond the scope of this post, but you can learn more about these health benefits and read the “Coffee Vs. Tea” comparison in the Energy Drink Guide.
THREE-Organic, Natural Ingredients
FACT: Every ingredient put into a food or beverage product must be GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”) or an approved dietary additive. I don’t believe a lot of the fear campaigns about artificial ingredients, but I choose to limit them in my diet. Steaz does not use artificial ingredients, which earns them a point.
FOUR-Body, Mind, and Soul
Sometimes when I travel for work, my options for caffeine are limited, and I feel compelled to say an apology to my body for what I’m about to put in it. I hate when the only energy drinks available are the super-sugary ones, or when the only freggie smoothies available have more sugar than a half-pint of ice cream. I feel good when I drink Steaz, not just because of its ingredients, but because of the company’s commitment to its farmers, its CO2 footprint, and to Fair Trade.
FIVE-Flavor and Sugar
I can’t deny my sweet tooth, but I try to limit added sugars wherever and whenever I can. I don’t like to drink my calories unless it’s a protein shake for breakfast en route to the gym. The blueberry pomegranate iced tea product has only 10 grams of sugar per serving, or 20 grams of sugar per can. That’s the perfect range for me, just enough sugar to make it enjoyable to drink, but not so much sugar I feel guilty about it. Plus, I make it a point to never finish a whole can in one sitting.
The Less-Than-Stellar Side of Steaz
There’s a reason why “marketeers” and food scientists can’t always get along. Marketing will want to say what the consumers want to hear, and scientists often don’t speak the same language as everybody else. Now if we could all just embrace a little more science (and the metric system?), what a wonderful world it would be.
ISSUE A: Steaz energy drinks have 23 grams of sugar per 8 ounces. For a lot of consumers, that’s too much. There isa zero-sugar energy drink, but I have yet to find it anywhere I’ve found the other Steaz teas. When I’m anything more than Fatigue Level 1, the Steaz teas aren’t going to cut it.
ISSUE B: Meaningless marketing claims drive me crazy! “Clean energy”? Just say “sustainably sourced”. As a Quality Assurance professional for a billion-dollar supplement line, I’ve rejected too many green tea leaf powders for heavy metal and food micro issues to swallow the “clean” claim. Sustainability means much more to me, and I can’t be the only consumer who feels this way.
ISSUE C: Fear-mongering marketing claims also drive me crazy. “Chemical free”? Everything in the Ingredient Line has a chemical bond, and doesn’t Sodium Citrate sound like a chemical to most people? Spreading fear of chemicals is a slippery slope that puts the emphasis on the wrong arguments. A claim like “no artificial ingredients” seems much more meaningful to the average consumer. (related post: Fear and FACTS)
If finding healthier sources of energy is part of your New Year’s Resolutions, give Steaz a try. Oh, and don’t be afraid of “chemicals” because your entire body is naturally comprised of them.