Fighting ‘Asian flush’ and hangovers: Singapore start-up touts benefits of pyroglutamic acid for liver recovery
Backed by funds from Singapore Management University’s (SMU) Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE), the firm said it managed to break even just within seven days of its product launch on August 24.
It is co-founded by Solomon Poon and Ryan Foo, who are both SMU alumni majoring in economics and marketing and law respectively. Poon, the head of product and operations, also has a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification.
The duo managed to secure a spot in the nine-month incubator program - the SMU Business Innovations Generator (BIG) programme in January this year.
Their same name anti-hangover product contains nine ingredients, including vitamins B1, B6, C, botanicals such as Japanese Raisin Tree, ginger extract, and black pepper extract.
“We did a market research and found that people were getting anti-hangover remedies from overseas, but they were not that effective, and so we thought we could try to create our own product,” Foo told NutraIngredients-Asia.
The star ingredient of all, according to Poon, is pyroglutamic acid.
Studies have shown that the amino acid, together with vitamin B6, could increase the liver recovery rate and speed up recovery from intoxication.
“I would consider this the star of the formula and the most overlooked ingredient in the market,” he said, adding that the pyroglutamic acid and vitamin B6 could protect the liver cells by increasing ATP.
The Japanese raisin tree, on the other hand, can help to reduce the “Asian flush”, as it contains the active ingredient dihydromyricetin.
“Asian flush” is said to be a result of a genetic ALDH2 deficiency that impairs the breakdown of acetaldehyde – a carcinogen that is converted from alcohol.
Dihydromyricetin works by breaking down the toxic acetaldehyde into acetate more quickly.
“The entire philosophy of this formula is that it is very strongly antioxidant based. The reason is because acetaldehyde is very inflammatory and causes free radicals to be released into the bloodstream.
“The only way to solve this is by having a very good antioxidant-based formula,” Foo said.
Similarly, the vitamins are used to speed up the breakdown of acetaldehyde. Ginger, on the other hand, prevents the user from feeling nauseous.
The product also uses S-Acetyl glutathione, a more bioavailable form of the antioxidant.
Available via the company’s official website, each DrinkAid sachet comes with two capsules. Users can choose to take a sachet before drinking to reduce the ‘Asian flush’ or take it after drinking to prevent hangovers.
Users can also choose to take it at both timings to achieve both effects.
There has been a number of Singapore-based start-up which has ventured into the anti-hangover segment in recent years.
Most of them have included turmeric into their formula.
Last year, Innoso launched its Innerpur Hangover Detox, a sachet containing turmeric, vitamin blends, and milk thistle.
In the year before, anti-hangover beverage 1B4 was launched by Damien Loh and Joe Lin, which also contains turmeric-derived curcumin, B vitamins and vitamin C.
On the choice of ingredient, Poon said a reason for not choosing curcumin was because of its strong taste and colour.
The product was shown to reduce the intensity of “Asian flush” by about 50% and 93% of the users said they did not experience hangover, according to a pre-release product testing.
The beta-testing was conducted on 30 users, Poon said, adding that he had spent about a year in developing the formula.
The firm has finished selling their first 800 products and are now half-way through for their second batch of 1,000 products. Many are repeat customers.
To their surprise, there were orders from outside of Singapore, including Japan, Hong Kong, and the UK.
“We expected to clear a batch of products in three months, but we are now halfway through clearing our second batch products,” Poon said.
As the duo had achieved two key milestones – hitting its sales target and worked with overseas suppliers – it received an SGD$10,000 (US$7,318) grant from the IIE as well as a co-working space.
Foo said that most of the consumers were in their 20s to 30s. While females made up the majority initially, the gender ratio has reached about 50-50 at present.
On the upcoming plans, Foo said they hoped to partner pubs and bars in selling the product.
Poon, on the other hand, said there were plans to introduce the product in gummy format.