On the Alert

The cognitive health ingredients market is predicted to be the next big trend in functional foods and beverages. Already functional brain health foods and beverages take in $1.2 billion in retail sales and Datamonitor estimates that the market will grow 11.8 percent by 2014.

While some cognitive beverages are built around marketing, Nawgan, one of the leading products in the category, is based on the scientific research of clinical neuropsychologist and Nawgan founder Dr. Robert Paul.
Hitting the market back in 2010 in Missouri and Illinois and now available statewide in Florida, Nawgan (a play on the word noggin) broke out from the clutter of brain health drinks with its science-based formulation to improve brain function and the brand is enjoying steady growth.

The innovative brand got the attention of Japan-based Kirin Holdings, as the company became a minority investor in Nawgan last fall, which will help with the brand’s national expansion.

Touted as an alertness beverage and marketed with the tagline “What to drink when you want to think,” the key to Nawgan’s functionality is Cognizin citicoline, a branded functional ingredient from ingredient maker Kyowa Hakko. Nawgan has 250 milligrams of Cognizin, which studies have shown can improve performance on tests of alertness and concentration.

Nawgan Products CEO James von der Heydt, who brought 21 years of experience in innovation and R&D at Ralston Purina to Nawgan, shares his thoughts about the brand’s potential to put the beverage market on high alert.

Beverage World: Why is the cognitive health beverage market booming?
James von der Heydt: Consumers are starting to appreciate, and science has appreciated this for some time, that the brain is something that we need to take care of and nourish and what we consume is all related to the health of our brain and our mental performance. That’s relevant to everyone of all ages; it’s a universal need state.  

BW: Why do you believe Nawgan will continue to carve out a niche in the market?
von der Heydt: Nawgan is authentic as it’s the only cognitive health beverage born out of the science industry. I think that’s relevant because when you look at the history of beverages, the major players, like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, they were created by pharmacists. Then you look at a lot of the current functional beverages, they were born out of beverage companies and marketing companies. We didn’t outsource any development of the product. Our goal was to create a really credentialed beverage to support alertness and focus and concentration.

BW: So, do consumers drink Nawgan in the morning in place of coffee or as an afternoon pick-me-up?
von der Heydt: Based on consumer feedback, they are integrating it into their daily routine as part of their regular beverage consumption. The time of day of consumption seems quite varied; a lot of people are using it as an afternoon pick-me-up, in place of coffee. The non-caffeinated product is something that consumers are drinking at night as well.

BW: Is it a challenge to get the science right along with the flavor?
von der Heydt: Flavor is something that we addressed later in the process after we made sure the science was sound. But we worked hard to make sure it tasted great. We just launched a new Strawberry Kiwi flavor, which is a slightly sweeter flavor, as some consumers wanted a product that was a little sweeter, but keeping the calories as low as possible around 40 to 45 calories

BW: What do you want to accomplish with Nawgan?
von der Heydt: Our goal is to get Nawgan into the hands of everybody.

BW: How do you plan on getting there?
von der Heydt: Our expansion plan is based on a really disciplined and strategic growth pattern. We started with Florida after our initial launch in Missouri and Illinois and we’ve grown now to Arizona and we’ll move on from there. We have a clever marketing campaign, including print advertising, that will start in May and it will really bring this brand to life.

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