Brain booster: Singapore’s Flojo eyes opportunities in cognition and concentration with sparkling functional beverages

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Flojo's sparkling drinks are formulated with a combination of B vitamins and an extract blend of nootropics and adaptogens. ©Flojo
Flojo's sparkling drinks are formulated with a combination of B vitamins and an extract blend of nootropics and adaptogens. ©Flojo

Related tags functional beverages Brain health Cognitive function Singapore adaptogens nootropics

Singapore start-up Flojo has debuted its sparkling drinks formulated with botanical ingredients aimed at supporting cognitive function, strengthening immune system, and improving mood and mental clarity.

Launched in April, the canned beverages are made with a combination of B vitamins and an extract blend of nootropics and adaptogens, including reishi, echinacea (coneflower), rhodiola rosea, cacao seed, and American ginseng.  

Flojo is co-founded by Singaporean couple Paul Tan and Cherie Lui, and Canada-based Christine Wong, who is also the firm’s chief neuroscientist.

“During the pandemic, people were very stressed and there hasn’t been a good solution that really helps with brain health. Nowadays, we also see a huge trend towards focus and energy because people are not just physically tired, but mentally as well.

“We wanted to create something that is enjoyable, easy to consume, and lets people take care of themselves without taking pills,” ​Wong told NutraIngredients-Asia​.

Flojo’s drinks claim to zero in on brain pathways that boost focus and concentration, while combating stress and anxiety.

Although its products are currently available only in Singapore via its website, and e-commerce platforms Shopee and Lazada, the start-up is looking to go into Hong Kong, US and Canada in the near future.

Paul and Cherie lived in Hong Kong for eight years, so they have good foundations there, where the people are very interested in health and wellness, and in keeping their bodies fit and minds sharp.

“The US has a huge population interested in health, but they also love soda and sparkling drinks. The wellness market there is trends-driven. They have gone through the prebiotic and kombucha phase, which are still doing well and had subsequently came over to Asia. So, I think the US has some of the biggest opportunities.”

Target audience

The brand has identified consumers aged between 24 and 35 as their main target group.

“Our drinks will be really suited for office workers, students, and parents — anyone who is looking to keep their minds sharp, and wants an alternative to coffee or an energy drink that contains synthetic caffeine.

“While our marketing is geared more towards the young, we see that the older populations are also increasingly concerned about their brain health. So our drinks are also great for them,” ​Wong said.

Flojo’s products are made with yerba mate and black tea, each can containing 18g of natural caffeine, which is equivalent to less than a cup of green tea.

“For people like me who love the smell of coffee but can’t drink them due to [side effects like] heart palpitations and anxiety, Flojo is a good alternative. And for coffee drinkers who don’t want to have a third or fourth cup in a day, they can take Flojo when they start feeling tired, such as after a meal.

“It’s an easy drink to have at your desk, at parties, and on the go. As they are sparkling drinks, they are very refreshing, particularly in hot weather. Furthermore, there is science behind the format — the carbonation helps to increase bioavailability of the ingredients.”

The drinks come in Peach Lychee and Mango Yuzu flavours, with a third flavour, Guava Passionfruit, in the works.

“We hope to introduce more flavours. For these, we want to be consumer-focused, so we are going to do some polls to see what our community wants.”

Backed by science

Flojo’s science arm is based in Canada, where a team of neuroscientists led by Wong had utilised a novel proprietary platform that combines laboratory technologies and AI to screen and study “hundreds of herbs and thousands of their bioactive components”.

The herbal formulas are then developed based on the findings.

“Our products are made and approved by neuroscientists. Our science arm in Canada is also part of the Johnson & Johnson Innovation lab, so they have a lot of experience working with pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals to ensure high efficacy and safety of our products.

“The herbs were not just randomly picked. In fact, the ingredients underwent molecular testing in the lab so we can really understand its effect on the mind and body. Some small studies were conducted, and now the neuroscientists are planning for clinical trials, which we also have exclusive rights to.”

Wong added that Flojo’s manufacturing method does not involve high heat for pasteurisation, unlike most functional beverages.

“High heat kills the functionality of active ingredients, therefore we do not use it so that consumers can really get the benefits of our drinks. Also, a lot of sparkling beverages are made with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and erythritol. Both of them can cause some discomfort, so we don’t use them, too.”

A drink for crypto?

The firm is actively building brand awareness through product seeding and customer outreach. The brand has also gone to local universities to engage with its target audience.

“Paul is very connected in the crypto space, where there isn’t exactly a drink that people associate with. For example, when you talk about Red Bull, people think of extreme sports. When you talk about Monster, they think of concerts and gaming.

“A lot of crypto players are office workers, traders and bankers. They have events all year round and internationally, but they don’t have a representative drink yet. Our packaging is vibrant and animated, which could appeal to the crypto community that loves stuffs like memes.”

According to Wong, Flojo took part in a crypto event in Hong Kong two weeks before FHA, leveraging the opportunity to sponsor and showcase its drinks.

“The good thing about it is that the marketing and exposure by the event helps get our name out to a global audience. Thus, participating in these events raises our brand awareness as well.”

Healthier Product Innovation will be a key topic of focus at Growth Asia Summit 2024 – join us in Singapore to learn about market opportunities and glean insights from major industry experts. Find out more here

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