Bedtime drink: Asian markets the next priority for UK’s Sleep Well Milk with valerian-rich beverage
First launched in 2017, the products are available on Sleep Well Milk’s online store, Amazon and retail outlets across the UK.
The company’s functional milk contains valerian, a botanical ingredient to help individuals relax and improve sleep quality.
Allan Watts, co-founder and director at Sleep Well Milk, told NutraIngredients-Asia, valerian root has been widely used for nearly 2,000 years.
“Despite a number of studies in the US and Europe, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that shows how valerian works. It is believed that valerian increases the amount of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. So, it reduces nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous activity and anxiety.”
The recommended effective amount of valerian is between 400 and 900mg. Sleep Well Milk contains 226mg of aqueous valerian extract per 100ml.
The functional milk is currently sold in 200ml serving and the company recommends drinking 30 minutes before bedtime.
Besides valerian, it also contains whole Jersey Milk, honey and vanilla or chocolate flavouring.
At the beginning, the company toyed with the idea of using spring water as a base instead of milk, but eventually decided on milk for several reasons.
One of which was because its principal investor was at that time involved in a sugar-free ice cream project, using milk from Jersey cows.
“In particular, Jersey milk is very high in calcium and tryptophan, which is known to have sleep inducing or sleep improving qualities,” Watts said.
Jersey Milk contains about 20% more protein and calcium than milk from other breeds.
“Another reason of using milk is because valerian is a herb with an unpleasant aroma and taste, which water will not be able to disguise. With milk, we can mask these properties easier.”
Sleep Well Milk can be stored ambient with a nine-month shelf life. It can be consumed at room temperature, chilled or warmed.
Milk with benefits
When the products were first launched, its target audience were university students, and the idea was to help them get a good night's sleep before examinations.
“As we developed the product, it became obvious that it was also very good for travellers, because it helps a lot with jetlag,” Watts said.
Other groups of consumers include working professionals and mothers.
“In today’s lifestyle, we are constantly connected, always checking emails, on our mobile phones, which disrupt our sleep. The product is really aimed at trying to get some balance back into our lives, to help us and help our body recharge in the way that they are designed to do.
“Without a good night's sleep, you're half the person you could be.”
Although marketed as a sleep drink, it is a drink for calming anxiety as well.
On the company’s website, there are customer reviews of people giving the products to their children with ADHD, autism, and those experiencing anxiety.
Watts clarified: “It was never really aimed at young children. But we do have a lot of customers who give it to children between the ages of three and 12.
“They give it to their children during the day, not necessarily to help them sleep, but because the drink has a calming effect. It's very good for children with autism or ADHD to help them get through the day at school.
“We don’t claim that our product is the best solution on the market or the only solution, there are lots of other ways you can improve your sleep, whether it is eating well, drinking well or spraying lavender on the pillows.
“We’re really open and honest about this mission to help people get a better night's sleep, so we recommend doing three things, making sure your room is dark, of the right temperature, and putting your phone in a different room, to get a better night's sleep.”
Watts insisted that the products are functional foods, and not medicine, hence do not make any health claims on its product.
Recently, the company launched a plant-based product, oat milk which also contains valerian. It is currently sold in an exclusive partnership with health food and supplement chain Holland and Barrett across the UK.
The firm is in discussions with a dairy partner in the US to produce and distribute the oat milk range. The dairy partner in US had recently built a plant-based production facility.
Watts said oat milk is the quickest growing market in the US at the moment, on the back of Oatly’s success.
Over in Asia, the firm had struggled in China, unable to get over regulatory hurdles, which is ironic for the country is one of the biggest growers of valerian.
Instead, it has made significant progress in Hong Kong, and will launch into convenience stores.
“We are also in discussions with a retail chain in South Korea. I would expect us to be available in Asia within the next three to six months,” Watts said.
Sleep Well Milk’s production partner in the UK already exports a significant amount of UHT milk to Hong Kong, China and South Korea, and so it was a natural step for the company to be enter these markets.
Discussions are also ongoing in Singapore. Watts highlighted Asia was a big focus for the firm in 2022 as it taps into existing contacts in Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.