Coffee fix? UDA targets China growth for relaunched longevity brew designed to help reverse ageing

By Audrey Yow

- Last updated on GMT

UDA targets China growth for relaunched longevity brew designed to help reverse ageing © UDA
UDA targets China growth for relaunched longevity brew designed to help reverse ageing © UDA

Related tags Coffee longevity functional beverage Nutrition

A longevity coffee product is set to be relaunched with a tweaked formulation in an effort to crack the lucrative China market after its first iteration achieved sales success in more than 40 countries.

UDA was founded by tech entrepreneur Kevin Yang and biomedical scientist Dr Avi Roy, with the team including scientists from Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge – mostly experts in the field of reverse-ageing.

“UDA’s mission is to undo ageing in people across the globe. Tests on rats, fish, flies and worms have revealed that we can reverse ageing in biological systems,”​ said Dr Roy.

The brand was formed in 2020 after Yang though that coffee could be a great way to spark a worldwide conversation about reverse ageing.

Instead of putting anti-ageing benefits in a supplement, he believes by adding them to the first thing many people reach for in the morning increases the appeal and accessibility.

“When you’re not sick, you don’t want to pop pills,”​ reasoned Dr Roy.

Thus began the team’s almost three-year long rigorous research, testing and tasting process.

“Ingredient sourcing was the easy part. The challenge was in getting the formula right,”​ said Yang.

Not your average cup of joe

They eventually developed a formulation that targets the hallmarks of ageing, such as DNA damage, inflammation, oxidative stress, and cellular senescence (cessation of cell division).

Ingredients include NMN, quercetin, ashwagandha, alpha-ketoglutarate, curcumin, vitamin D and L-theanine.

But it wasn’t a case of simply dumping all the components into coffee. The product had to smell and taste good.

“We once had a pop-up store in London, and we had alpha-ketoglutarate with us. It smelled so bad that we had to tuck it in one corner,”​ recounted Dr Roy. He attributed the odour to the presence of amino acids in the compound.

“What the team achieved was phenomenal. We were able to add all the ingredients that we wanted for cellular rejuvenation, and yet still ensure that it is the refreshing, comforting smell of hot coffee that hits you when you pour water over it,”​ said the founders, who described the aroma of their product as a cross between Nescafe and Starbucks’ Americano.

The team is now completing some adjustments to the current formula and hopes to roll out the renewed version as soon as possible.  ​The main motivation for the changes was to adhere to the regulatory requirements of the China market.

“We reconfigured the formula because we want to make a bigger impact in China, which is a huge market. The Chinese have a different set of regulations from the rest of the world for supplements and beverages. It took us about two years and a lot of hard work to ensure that we can deliver the same benefits while maintaining scientific rigour,”​ explained Dr Roy.

Putting it to the test

To put their product to the test, the team previously led a case study to observe healthy adults before and after consuming UDA’s longevity coffee.

They claim that drinking the coffee continuously for six months reduced hallmarks of biological age by an average of 6.1 years.

They measured the participants' biological age markers before and after the consumption of the coffee and observed the following:

(1) Reduction in epigenetic age (a DNA-based clock that reflects how old your cells are), (2) reduction in PhenoAge (biomarkers that determine your physiological age), (3) increase in telomere length (telomeres are the protective caps on our chromosomes, which progressively shorten as we age), and (4) slowing of DunedinPACE rate of ageing (an indicator of the rate of biological ageing).

There are now plans to conduct a larger and more rigorous clinical trial to confirm their findings and explore the long-term effects on health and ageing outcomes.

Expanding their global reach

With their factories operating in the UK, China and Hong Kong, the company ships to more than 40 countries and currently relies solely on the online retail channel.

Apart from maintaining the quality of their product, Dr Roy also mentioned another challenge that they have always been grappling with – selling the concept of delayed gratification.

“As a society, we are often encouraged to appreciate delayed gratification, but we’re really bad at it,”​ he mused, pointing out the fact that consumers tend to want to see results immediately.

“We need to ensure that consumers can also feel the effects quickly, like within the next two to three hours, from active ingredients like ashwagandha, which helps relieve stress, fatigue, and insomnia.”

Driving education

A recent major milestone for the firm has been its collaboration with XPRIZE Foundation, a non-profit organisation that designs and hosts public competitions intended to encourage technological development.

The XPRIZE mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity through incentivised competition. It is the same organisation that funded Elon Musk’s Space X and Starlink programmes.

UDA has joined the Healthspan competition and signed a memorandum of understanding with XPRIZE, which is offering a $101 million prize to the winning team that can demonstrate the effectiveness of their treatments through clinical trials and show measurable improvements in ageing biomarkers.

“Longevity is a big deal. The aim is also to prevent diseases before they happen so that we can reduce the cost of healthcare worldwide,”​ said Dr Roy. 

We will be taking a closer look at Healthy Ageing in our Growth Asia Summit 2024 this coming July, which will feature insights from a wide range of industry leaders and experts. Don't miss out – register here​ today!

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