'Fusion superdrink': UK brand targeting APAC millennial market with locally inspired functional beverage

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

According to the brand, the vegan-friendly, citrus-flavoured, caffeine-free DRGN boasts antioxidant properties, helps support healthy liver function, and contains a mere 80 calories.
According to the brand, the vegan-friendly, citrus-flavoured, caffeine-free DRGN boasts antioxidant properties, helps support healthy liver function, and contains a mere 80 calories.

Related tags functional beverage Turmeric Millennials

UK beverage brand DRGN (pronounced 'dragon') has set its sights on APAC with its new functional soft drink, which combines ingredients originating from and popular in Asia to target consumers in the region.

Dubbed the "world's first superdrink"​, DRGN contains a blend of Asian 'superfoods', such as turmeric and ginger, alongside vitamins, electrolytes, and an amino acid meant to fight fatigue and encourage hydration.

According to the brand, the drink also boasts antioxidant properties, and helps to support healthy liver function. The vegan-friendly, citrus-flavoured beverage comes in 250ml cans, each serving containing a mere 80 calories and no caffeine, or artificial flavours, colours or sweeteners.

Asian fusion for Asian appeal

Speaking to NutraIngredients-​Asia, founder Vishal Sodha said he was inspired by his time living in Hong Kong — where he relocated from London more than 10 years ago — and his travels throughout Asia, during which he became familiar with the popularity and familiarity of botanicals in the region.

The idea for the drink itself came about in 2012, the Chinese year of the dragon.

Sodha said: "The idea was to use Asian botanicals and superfoods — healthy natural ingredients that had been used in Asia for thousands of years — as well as vitamins and electrolytes to create a sort of Asian fusion drink that was very versatile and multifunctional.

"About a year ago, I really started to focus on this venture full-time. My team and I set out to refine the formula and flavouring, and make sure ingredients were all natural and sustainably sourced — from their origins to their individual production processes.

"We also found a top-rated production facility in Austria to make and package DRGN."

One of the key reasons for featuring traditional Asian botanicals in DRGN is to appeal to Asian consumers, especially millennials, many of whom are moving away from drinking caffeinated, sugary beverages and looking for lighter, healthier alternatives.

In addition to botanical extracts, vitamins, electrolytes and amino acids, the drink also contains black pepper.

Sodha explained: "Some of our research suggested that adding black pepper to turmeric would enhance the absorption of curcumin by about 2000%.

"Furthermore, curcumin helps to flush out acetaldehyde, which is what causes that nasty hangover feeling the day after a night of drinking."

Mixing and marketing

While DRGN is essentially primarily a functional beverage, it is packaged and marketed as a premium drink that can be drunk on its own, or as "the smarter mixer"​ for spirits.

Sodha said, "If you're having with vodka Red Bull, for instance, you're adding a lot of caffeine and sugar to your beverage. DRGN is a smarter option, because when you use it as a mixer, at least you are giving your body antioxidants and vitamins even while having alcoholic drinks."

He also revealed the thought process behind the product’s packaging and marketing, saying it was meant to have a more premium look and feel. The ingredients are even blended with Austrian spring water, adding to its 'premium' status.

"We didn't want to develop a healthy beverage that looked like it was just that — a healthy beverage. We wanted something didn't look like it belonged exclusively in a health food store or supermarket, but could also easily be found in a bar or nice restaurant."

DRGN was first introduced to the market in the beginning of October, and is currently available in the UK at Sourced Market, a high-end F&B establishment that carries food and drink from small, independent producers in London.

At the moment, the brand is in negotiations with restaurants and bars in the UK, though Sodha declined to reveal further details in that regard. He did, however, confirm that DRGN will eventually expand its range of functional beverages.

He is planning to launch the product in Hong Kong and Singapore by May next year, and is also keen on entering other South East Asian countries, Japan, China, India, Australia and the EU.

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