Amara Gets Positively Paleo

Inspired by the emergence and popularity of the so-called “Paleo diet,” Amara has reformulated and repositioned its detox and recovery product into a “raw” superfruit drink. The revamped beverage, a carbonated blend of raw CoffeeBerry and Maqui berry extracts, caffeine, B-Vitamins and antioxidants, now undergoes a first-of-its-kind co-packing process in order to maintain a raw liquid and a long shelf life without the use of high pressure processing (HPP) or pasteurization.

Amara CEO Greg Connolly called the new product the “first fully raw and carbonated sports drink” and explained that the brand revamp had its roots among enthusiasts of the CrossFit exercise program. Many CrossFit practicers have also embraced the Paleo diet, which is also known as the “hunter/gatherer” or “caveman” diet. Paleo dieters focus on daily consumption of natural and raw foods including fresh meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Grains, beans and dairy products are excluded from the diet; Connolly is hoping that carbonated juices are not.

Based on consumer feedback for Amara’s original formulation, Connolly and his team decided to reshape the brand as one that could cater to the burgeoning Paleo movement. Putting aside the numerous challenges associated with a rebranding strategy and its execution, the transition from the recovery category to the arena of healthy, functional beverages became a more difficult task based on Amara’s desire to create a raw beverage with carbonation.

While HPP is currently the most sought after technology for raw beverage companies, its use is limited to non-carbonated drinks because of the tremendous amount of pressure placed on the liquid. Connolly needed to find a way to achieve the benefits of HPP – high vitamin/mineral/flavor retention, longer shelf life for raw liquids – without the use of pressure or heat.

After dozens of visits to co-packing facilities across the country, Connolly finally found a partner in 7UP Bottling Co. of Modesto, Calif., which had a cold fill line that could be equipped with a carbonation system. 7UP Bottling was also able to augment its line with a system could add a dose of Velcorin, an organic microbial control agent that can be used for cold sterilization of beverages, to each bottle of Amara. More commonly used for wine, the dosage of Velcorin gives Amara a 12-month shelf life and, as Connolly puts it, “a clean label.”

Although the co-packing end of production was set, Amara needed to find a bottle that could withstand the filling process. After a number of failed trials with stock PET bottles, Amara developed a proprietary grip-type bottle that features a reinforced base in order to offset the combination of cold filling and carbonation. The bottle also uses a special “double lock” cap to seal the package.

For the final step of Amara’s rebranding, Connolly turned to McLean Design to develop its label and a refreshed image. McLean, which is best known for creating Monster Energy’s logo and package design, crafted a full sleeve wrap for the bottle that retains the logo that Amara used in the previous iteration of the beverage. The purple colored label also features the phrase “raw superfruit hydration energy” along with images of CoffeeBerries and Maqui berries near the base of the bottle.

Armed with an on-trend formulation and sleek new package, Amara will initially target a specific set of individuals within the CrossFit community and eventually begin marketing efforts that encompass a broader swath of natural food and beverage consumers. The company is aligned with UNFI and Nature’s Best for distribution and Amara is currently sold at approximately 100 CrossFit gyms in California and Nevada, as well as some Whole Foods locations in both states. Connolly said that Amara would aim to gain new retail placement of the brand at an additional 150 CrossFit gyms in the Southwest, and recently hired Corbin Duly, a former executive with Cuipo Water, to head up sales for the region.

Despite the costs associated with the rebrand as well as new sales and marketing initiatives for the beverage, Connolly indicated a desire for Amara to remain a self-funded company. The former tech and software entrepreneur said that he’s spent $350,000 of his own money since launching the brand in 2011, and is likely to continue to financing new investment into the company, noting that he is wary of diluting ownership via private equity or angel investment.