Physician Alex Hughes founded Santa Monica-based MD Drinks, Inc., maker of function drinks, around one simple, powerful idea: to bring physician-developed functional beverages based on proven clinical science to consumers. “In the hospital, doctors use many natural yet powerful supplements, more than most consumers realize, to achieve a wide range of effects,”Dr. Hughes explains. “Most doctors take the use of these natural agents for granted because we also have the power of the prescription pad.”
“It quickly became apparent to me in medical school that one could do some pretty powerful things with beverages if they had sufficient technical capabilities.”Dr. Hughes continues, “This was reaffirmed in my surgical training at UCLA.”Hughes, a UCLA surgeon who earned both his MD and undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Vanderbilt University, teamed up with his Harvard MBA business partner in 2004 to build a new beverage company from the ground up. “I had been exposed to the beverage industry as an undergrad at Vanderbilt when I witnessed my friend’s father launch SOBE,”Dr. Hughes explains. “Obviously, that had a certain effect on me because once I had the idea for our concept, I acted on it.”
In order to make an impact, the company had to hit some home-runs. They started by tackling a very common ailment: the hangover. “In surgery, we’re aware of many ‘tricks’one can employ to affect metabolism and inflammation and therefore, hangovers,”Dr. Hughes explains. They took their initial prototypes of the anti-hangover/ anti-air pollution formulation to a leading flavor house, collaboratively worked out the uniquely satisfying citrus/prickly pear flavor combination, and launched their first drink, function urban detox, in November of 2005.
After securing key relationships, including a strategic partnership with Wild Flavors (Cincinnati, OH), MD Drinks gained access to unprecedented research and development tools. “We had to convince a lot of people that this concept could actually work: creating beverages with true functionality, not just with hints of novel ingredients.”Dr. Hughes elaborates, “With the technical capabilities of a large beverage company combined with the innovative spirit of scientists, we can now translate complex laboratory formulations into shelf-stable, delicious drinks that everyone can enjoy.”Given function’srapid growth and sophisticated formulations, it’s impressive to consider how far the company has come. “We literally started with a laboratory set up in the kitchen of my house in Los Angeles, yes-people thought we were crazy!”says Dr. Hughes. “And now we are an industry leader.”
In the field, function urban detoxhas proven as effective as it is satisfying. “It works well whether consumed as part of your daily healthy regimen, as a mixer, as a nightcap before going to bed after a night out, or as morning refreshment. “He says, “It’s the perfect daily tonic for city living; it addresses hangoverphysiology and supports healthy lungs and sinuses in the face of air pollution.”
As appealing and effective as urban detox is, “our concept is to continue rolling out new flavors and effects,”Dr. Hughes explains. The team has just followed up with function youth trip, which minimizes fine lines and wrinkles and promotes youthful health, strength, and appearance, and function brainiac, which helps boost memory, mood, and mental acuity without the use of stimulants. Each product contains elements never before used in beverages, and are based on voluminous, annotated research supporting the health benefits ofeach.
“The teams assembled for each formulation have done amazing work, “Dr. Hughes confirms. In fact, the team for function youth trip, among others, drew upon two dermatologists, and the team for function brainiacincluded an ophthalmologist and a doctor of internal medicine. This is only the beginning for function drinkswith two more drinks slated for release during the summer. “We’re really pushing the envelope from both a conceptual and technical standpoint.”
Building on marketplace success that has seen function drinksgarner celebrity fans including Amy Smart, ToriSpelling, Maroon 5, Fergieof the Black Eyed Peas, and ShaquilleO’Neal, MD Drinks has brought on several large southern California distributors and is currently engaged in a phased rollout across the country. Southern California consumers can find function drinksin retail establishments ranging from high end places like FredSegal, Cuvee Beverly Hills, Famima!! to local grocery stores and your neighborhood AM/PM. Function’s marketing mavens have placed the drinks at numerous special events, such as the Golden Globesand Grammy Awards gift bag, KIIS-FM’s annual WangoTango concert, The Hollywood Reporter’s NextgenParty, DKNY/Motorola Coachella, and were staples at Sundance and the SxSWMusic Festival this year.
“My first passion is of course as a physician and surgeon,”confirms Dr. Hughes. “MD Drinks is an extension of that energy.”The entire team at MD Drinks relays that part of their daily motivation is hearing the tremendous feedback from their loyal fan base. “We’re really hitting our stride together and having a blast doing it,”elates Dr. Hughes. “I could talk forever about some of our upcoming drinks!
For more information, goto http://www.functiondrinks.com.