Kitchen experiments sparked Ben Chambers’ healthy drinks venture

Ben Chambers. Picture: John Paul

Ben Chambers. Picture: John Paul

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HOW many times have you looked at the ingredients on a can of juice and given up, realising you should have paid more attention during double science?

Ben Chambers and his wife Noeli know exactly what it all means, however, and what those chemicals can do to you. So when they say their new Super!Natural energy drink is 100 per cent pure and healthy, they know what they’re talking about.

Living in Inverness, Ben, a bio-chemist, and Noeli, an industrial chemist, found themselves travelling long distances to the central belt and England for their work and often needed a lift to keep themselves awake at the wheel. They got fed up of endless cups of coffee and found the other options limited, and that’s when they decided to make their own nutritious energy drink. “There was Red Bull and a number of very similar drinks. They contain caffeine, taurine and other bits and pieces, added to stimulate you, and they all tasted terrible – so full of synthetic chemicals you are wondering what’s happening inside your body.

“There was nothing available to aid wakefulness and concentration if you’re health-conscious,” says Ben. “Nothing we liked the taste of, anyway, other than a cup of tea. So we decided to take something we thought was unhealthy and provide an alternative.”

Back in Inverness, the couple set to work in their kitchen, mixing fruit juices, natural caffeine and green coffee beans to get the right blueberry-based formula. “My wife and I spent most of last year doing this, and it was a bit of a departure for us. We met 20 years ago at work and have spent most of our careers working for big pharmaceutical companies. I work for a healthcare company on products to prevent infection in patients – so this was very different,” he says.

“We put in no synthetic additives or added sugar at all, just used tartaric acid (a natural acidifier), coffee and fruit juice, plus water so it’s not as thick as a smoothie and more refreshing. Our favourite, the one that became Super!Natural, is a fusion of blueberry and apple.”

With their recipe perfected, it was time to get feedback. This is where the marketing department of Strathclyde University came in, with the MSc students coming up with ideas around branding and marketing strategy. “They got a real product that they will see on shelves to work with, and we got loads of ideas such as the name. It was a win-win situation,” says Ben.

“Then at the ScotHot hospitality, catering and tourism event at the SECC in Glasgow, we handed out 1,000 samples to thirsty delegates, with only two or three reporting they didn’t like the taste. That’s a high ‘like’ rate.”

It might be hard to knock Red Bull off the student/clubbing market shelves, but the couple have their eyes on a different customer. “This is for someone who’s looking for a more healthy drink, something mothers could give their children too – though if you want to put something in your shot, you might as well take in fewer chemicals and avoid the headaches.

“We are not deliberately trying to attract the high-octane young male adrenalin junkies who want to mix it and swallow very quickly. We deliberately softened the caffeine content versus Red Bull by a third, because some people don’t like the fact that their heart rate goes up. Yet it works just as well.”

With Super!Natural spreading throughout delis and currently in around 20 stores and hotels in the Highlands, and the search on for more stockists, Ben and Noeli have moved on to their next product – a drink they think is even healthier. A fusion of superfruit and superveg, it contains no caffeine at all. “We’re back in the kitchen, experi-menting,” he says.

“We always wanted to do something that was new and innovative, creative. I can’t say I always wanted to make an energy drink but it fitted nicely with our goal of helping people stay healthy – that’s why we work in the careers that we do.

“There are times when you think the enormity of creating a consumer product is too much, but there is help out there. It has taught us not to give up. I would advise others to go for it and be confident, despite the knockbacks. We won’t give up.

“My wife and I are still in the kitchen, squeezing ...”

• Super!Natural, £1.25-£2.50 (www.drinksupernatural.co.uk)

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