TWO Inverness scientists who created an energy drink based on natural ingredients have secured a Scotland-wide listing for the product with a major convenience store chain.
The deal with Dundee wholesaler CJ Lang means Super!Natural will be available in 300 Spar stores across Scotland. It is the first major grocery listing achieved by the product since being launched by Ben and Noeli Chambers a year ago.
The couple built up the brand by "knocking on doors" in the independent cafe, retail and delicatessen sector, taking it to about 100 listings in Scotland prior to the CJ Lang contract.
Stockists include Whole Foods in Glasgow and London, with distribution handled by wholesalers such as Cumbernauld company The Food & Drink Hub. The company is also working with Fife Creamery, the chilled food wholesaler, and Highland Wholefoods, an Inverness-based wholesale co-operative.
The idea for a healthier energy drink was hatched by its creators on the frequent trips they made up and down the A9 for work purposes and to visit family and friends. The couple spotted a gap in the market for a drink which provided the boost associated with conventional energy drinks, but which was made with natural ingredients. They were also motivated to create a product which would appeal to women, with Mr Chambers contending most energy drinks are "masculine in nature".
Being scientists to trade, they literally developed the recipe at their kitchen table. And the result is a drink which blends real fruit juices such as blueberry, apple and grape with natural caffeine.
Mr Chambers said: "You need something to keep you alert along the way. That's where it came to me. Once you have had your fill of coffee, there is not a lot else out there, other than what I thought was not the best tasting. That's what gave us the idea."
Mr Chambers, a biochemist who has spent the bulk of his career in the medical industry, said the process of creating the product was "very similar to any lab situation".
The first external advice they sought was on how to give the product shelf-life in shops.
Perhaps surprisingly, there was no company in Scotland able to package their product for them in a 250ml can. Super!Natural is blended and canned by a "blue chip, ISO-approved" factory in Austria, but Mr Chambers has ambitions to handle that process in Scotland.
He said: "We have had that conversation with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, because we don't think we are unique. I don't think I'm breaking confidences, but they are doing a bit of research around whether there are enough little companies in Scotland that would use of such a facility.
"That would be great, because we would need to be running literally into the millions to warrant a canning factory, and at the moment our run is about 100,000. We have a fair way to go before we do invest in our own canning factory."
Mr Chambers revealed the product name came from a link with the University of Strathclyde. The owners sponsored students working towards an MSc in marketing at the university by giving them samples and asking them to come up with a name and marketing plan as part of their course.
The link came about through Interface, a not-for-profit Scottish Government organisation which connects companies an academics.
Now Super!Natural is looking to take the link with academia a step further by ensuring every new student starting college or university this autumn will receive a free can of Super!Natural in their fresher's welcome pack.
However Mr Chambers is emphatic the product will not be actively promoted as a mixer for spirits. He said: "The full health benefit of our product is somewhat diluted if you put alcohol in it. The message is no added sugar and better for you than alternatives. ."
Meanwhile, plans were at an advanced stage to introduce a new tropical flavour, with a the firm mulling whether to launch it in time for Christmas or as an antidote to the "January blues".