Energy shots such as 5 Hour Energy have proliferated in recent years as they have taken up an increasingly large portion of the multibillion-dollar energy drink market. The smaller, sugar-free energy shots often position themselves as a healthier alternative to full-sized energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster.
But can energy shots truly be healthy?
They sure can, according to Lisa Curtis, CEO of mission-driven food startup Kuli Kuli.
“We did a lot of consumer testing and found that lots of people like 5 Hour Energy for the convenient, buzz-free boost but often feel guilty about drinking them because they perceive them as toxic,” Curtis told Sustainable Brands.
That’s why the Oakland-based social enterprise, which already produces bars made from the “superfood” Moringa oleifera, has decided to step into the energy shot market.
Kuli Kuli co-developed the so-called Moringa Green Energy Shots with Whole Foods. After gathering data from a customer survey, Kuli Kuli approached the Whole Foods with a desire to create a new product made with Haitian moringa and a list of a couple of product ideas.
Whole Foods immediately jumped on the idea of a Moringa Green Energy Shot, Curtis said.
“There are lots of green juices and there are lots of caffeinated beverages and both categories have been skyrocketing,” she said. “But no one has combined the two into a quick on-the-go shot of greens, vitamins and energy.”
Kuli Kuli’s new energy shot contains half a cup of leafy greens and green tea caffeine equivalent to a cup of coffee.
The only other player in the natural energy shot space is Guayaki's Yerba Mate Shot, which Curtis doesn’t consider to be a competitor as she says Kuli Kuli’s offering is “quite different.” She worked with the company during her high school years.
Each shot will retail for $3.99, the same as Guayaki and most of the other shots on the market.
The energy shots will be made from moringa sourced from Haiti as part of a partnership with the Clinton Foundation and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA), a Haitian nonprofit. Kuli Kuli will work with local partners to ensure that moringa is grown and used locally while exporting a portion of the harvest to provide a sustainable livelihood to women moringa farmers.
However, Whole Foods said it would only carry and help market the Moringa Green Energy Shots if Kuli Kuli can raise $100,000, which will go toward the first moringa harvest in Haiti and manufacturing the energy shots.
To raise these funds, Kuli Kuli has launched an Indiegogo campaign. As of this writing, the company had raised nearly $35,000.
“This is the most ambitious project that Kuli Kuli has ever taken on and probably the most impactful,” Curtis said.
In addition to creating sustainable jobs for Haitians, the reforestation project also be significant for a country that has lost 99 percent of its original forest.
“The UN has spent over a trillion dollars trying to reforest the island but the trees keep getting cut down because the are more valuable to Haitians are charcoal than as trees,” Curtis said. “If we can create a market for Haitian moringa, we can help reforest Haiti with trees that people won't cut down because they're earning a sustainable livelihood from the leaves.
“It's both an incredible challenge and an incredible opportunity.”