Botanical boost: Traditional herbs and sports potential to fuel Indian beverage firm's global expansion plan

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Sipwise's portfolio covers three unique product categories: green tea coolers, herb coolers, and a natural caffeine drink.
Sipwise's portfolio covers three unique product categories: green tea coolers, herb coolers, and a natural caffeine drink.

Related tags Beverages botanical India

Indian functional beverage firm Sipwise is hoping to drive its global ambitions with heavy investment in R&D and a variety of innovative functional drinks in the pipeline.

Founder Harish Mohan started the company in 2014 and, after spending 2.5 years on product development, launched its first range of functional beverages.

Mohan told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "Sipwise was borne of three main insights into the beverage industry. Firstly, when we looked at the industry, we noticed the big players in soda and soft drinks had been experiencing slower growth globally since 2000.

"We also observed that consumers’ disposable incomes were rising, and they were being more discerning in their choices — the type of drinks experiencing an upward trend and double-digit growth were better-for-you (BFY) beverages: mainly dairy-based nutritional drinks, energy and sports beverages, and vitamin-enriched water.

"The third observation we made was that brands that had managed to make an impact in the industry and take on major companies like Coca-Cola were brands that had taken the time and effort to create a category of their own, and therefore, had first-mover advantage."

He brought up two examples, innocent and Red Bull. The latter entered the Indian market in 2006 when consumers were unfamiliar with the concept of energy drinks, but is now the market leader in energy drinks in the country.

Herbs, tea and good energy

Sipwise's current portfolio covers three unique product categories, one being green tea coolers, which contains "all the benefits of green tea and none of the bitter aftertaste"​.

According to Mohan, the bitter aftertaste of chilled green tea causes many people in India to avoid drinking it despite being aware of its health benefits.

"To improve the taste, we made a chilled green tea drink and fortified it with ingredients like acerola, which is a plant extract rich in vitamin C and can support immune health."

The second is what the company calls 'herb coolers', which are herbal drinks mixed with fruit flavours, vitamins, minerals and inulin, a chicory-derived soluble fibre that is said to benefit gut and heart health.

Combining traditional Indian herbs such as ashwaghanda​ with herbs sourced from overseas, like chamomile and rosehip — meant to aid in stress-relief — the herb coolers are also lower in sugar, relying mainly on inulin’s role as a natural sweetener instead.

Both the green tea and herb coolers are part of a line of bottled beverages called What If.

The third product, a canned beverage called 1947, is a natural caffeine drink or, as Mohan terms it, a 'healthier energy drink'.

"Energy drinks have two components: energy and alertness. The first comes from a specific set of ingredients that include inositol and taurine. Alertness comes from caffeine, but you only need a minimal amount to function. So while other brands have about 80mg per serving, ours contains 50mg."

Additionally, the caffeine used in the Sipwise's formulation is extracted from tea, and like the herb coolers, the drink also uses inulin as a sweetener to keep the levels of added sugar low.

Opportune market forces

Mohan is keen to take advantage of the soaring functional beverage sector with extensive R&D and aggressive NPD, in order to achieve Sipwise's ultimate goal.

The firm is now in the process of developing a sports beverage, for which it is investigating the effects of different plant extracts on sodium retention and water absorption in the gut, as well as fluoride secretion — all essential for optimal sports performance.

Sipwise has applied for a global patent for the drink, which it aims to launch sometime next year.

An anti-hangover drink is also in the works, and as with the sports beverage, the company intends to file a patent for it in order to add value to its intended position as a product for the global market.

The company is even looking at developing a drink to enhance sexual health for both men and women by supporting the healthy production of testosterone and oestrogen.

Mohan said, "We are studying which enzymes inhibit testosterone and oestrogen production on a cellular level, then looking at natural compounds that inhibit the production of these enzymes, so we can develop a product to facilitate the healthy production of testosterone and oestrogen using these compounds."

Presently, Sipwise's products are available in health food stores and leading supermarket chains in four cities in India, and the firm plans expand to 10 cities by next year.

However, it has also received interest from the UAE, and has picked Singapore, Malaysia and the US as its primary overseas markets, where it plans to launch by next year.

The global functional beverage industry had a reported value of US$300m in 2016, and Indian market is currently worth about US$35m, with analysts saying it is expected to grow by 20% to 25% CAGR by 2025.

Mohan said, "This is the segment in the beverage industry that is poised to take off. You can see this in the fact that industry giants like Pepsi are investing millions in R&D to study the nutritious potential of plant-based extracts.”

"Our forte is R&D — right now, we have invested more in R&D than what we have earned in revenue so far because we are looking at the bigger picture: our vision is to be a leader in each functional beverage category by 2025."

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