As someone who was raised in North Yorkshire but works in Inverness, Ben Chambers is a seasoned commuter. But regular trips to Skipton to visit family and friends means that he needs to stay alert on the road for long hours.
Initially, Mr Chambers turned to energy drinks to keep focussed behind the wheel but was worried about their chemical content, as well as unimpressed by their taste. So the biochemist decided to devise an all-natural energy drink at his kitchen table. Just a year later and SUPER!NATURAL is making a name for itself in shops and at food shows.
“The drive from Inverness to Skipton is six hours and there’s only so much coffee and tea you can drink,” says Mr Chambers. “So I moved to energy drinks because I wanted to be safe on the road. At that point I realised that every product I could see tasted terrible and was no good for me at all.”
Prior to setting up SUPER!NATURAL, Mr Chambers worked for Johnson & Johnson. His wife and co-founder of SUPER!NATURAL, Noeli, is also a chemist.
He says: “When I left Johnson & Johnson, I decided my new driver was to provide a natural healthy alternative for people like me who do a lot of driving. It became clear when we did some market research that it wasn’t just drivers who need a boost of energy sometimes, it’s everybody.”
SUPER!NATURAL has no added sugar, no sweeteners, no chemical preservatives, and no artificial colours. Natural caffeine is sourced from green coffee beans and the real fruit juices include blueberries, grapes and apples. It has been approved by The Vegetarian Society and is now stocked in independent delicatessens, cafes and hotels both in Yorkshire and Scotland. But building the business has been a steep learning curve.
“It was about a year in development and we started marketing it in the middle of last year,” explains Mr Chambers. “But it has been challenging. I wanted to make sure I had followed all the rules and regulations and had all the regulations in place. Once the formula had been blended, I went to an established canning product factory. Then took out a loan and ordered a batch of product – I ordered the minimum which was 150,000 cans. It was a bit of a breathtaking moment. But we knew that we had a flavour that was fantastic and was a winner.”
The drink first came to the public’s attention at the Harrogate Speciality Food Show last year and the Chambers recently returned to Harrogate for the 2014 event.
Mr Chambers says: “Our drink, particularly because of its very simple list of ingredients for a canned drink, is very popular with the cycling fraternity who are particularly careful about any additives they take.”
The drink is now sold by the Whole Foods Markets chain in London and over 20 stores have stocked up on SUPER!NATURAL. More than 50 outlets expressed interest in the product following the recent Harrogate show.
SUPER!NATURAL is already on its third batch of 150,000 cans. Mr Chambers aims to achieve a turnover of £100,000 by the end of the current financial year.