Beta Energy: How students spiked energy drinks with sustainability

Holly Sutich and Bradley Hagan have won big at the inaugural AUT X Challenge awards after unveiling their new product, Beta Energy – a healthier alternative to energy drinks, which could still possibly give you wings.

As many fall victim to Mobil’s infamous pie and V deal, or Red Bull’s falsified promise of flight, energy drinks have become a ubiquitous product during late night assignments.

According to Southern Cross data, 35 percent of Kiwis believe they are drinking too many energy drinks and one punter told the New Zealand Herald his company was drinking two or three litres a day.

Beta Energy has latched onto the issue of high consumption, and provides an alternative - a healthier, sustainable energy drink, which provides the same amount of energy without the sporadic jitters.

Co-founder Holly Sutich shares the gritty details. “We created a healthier alternative, natural energy drink that provides sustainable energy so you don’t get the crash that you do from a normal energy drink. It provides double the antioxidants as green tea providing a natural, smooth blend and also has one of the lowest sugar levels for a natural energy drink on the market.”

The pair conjured up the idea in their first year of university, Sutich says. “We saw everyone around us drinking really unhealthy energy drinks and staying up late to finish assignments while we lived in the student halls and decided to make a change.”

The product is still in the development process and disclosure of ingredients is commercially sensitive, however the key ingredient is a mysterious Amazonian super leaf which provides nutritional and social impact.  

Sutich says: “Our key ingredient grows under the canopy in the Amazon rainforest, our key supplier is a social enterprise that works in the Amazon rainforest, fights deforestation and rebuilds the rainforest, because that is where our main ingredient grows and they work to provide fair trade for farmers over there.”

Holly Sutich and Bradley Hagan.

Environmental sustainability is a running theme for the two who are proposing to give five cents for every unit sold to environmental initiatives in New Zealand. Additionally, with increased growth in the market, the pair are hoping to increase its support for environmental groups, as well as look at more sustainable forms of packaging.

After three years of rigorous research and development, the pair have collected numerous awards, initially winning the top two awards at the Co. Starters Entrepreneurship programme in 2016 before winning third in the AUT venture fund. More recently, they went large at the AUT X Challenge awards night, winning $20,000 in cash and $10,000 in packages from Lowndes Jordan, Xero, KPMG and the Tech Cafe.

Sutich describes the awards night: “It required a five minute pitch in front of everyone and then a five minute dragons den style Q + A in front of everyone - it was pretty intense we were the last ones of the evening, we got up there and did our best. We managed to win our social enterprise category which was $5000 as well as the overall award which was $15,000 with additional X Challenge packages as well.”

Following the flurry of awards, Sutich describes how the product has developed since the support.

“We are about to pitch for our final round of investment before we launch, and are at the stage where we will be developing our brand, with a goal to launch mid to late 2018.”

Sutich shares the company's ambitions to form social impact, environmental sustainability and one day take the company globally.  “Our main goal is to revolutionise the energy drink industry in New Zealand and overseas. We see ourselves as a global brand because there is a need for our product in places like Southeast Asia and an important aspect for us is injecting the social impact. The key part of our success is shown by growth and the impact we have environmentally, for the communities of New Zealand and hopefully one day globally.”

For two students juggling pricey living costs, meager food budgets and strenuous university degrees, starting a business didn’t come without toil.

As Sutich states: “The hardest part about starting our own business is the sheer enormity of the task ahead of us. We are aware it isn't easy to start a business, and there are hurdles that come our way and we must navigate our way over them. We have been challenged to think outside the square and to be keen problem solvers. Yes, this can be difficult, but at the end of the day, it is helping grow ourselves as forward-thinking entrepreneurs and helping us grow the possibilities for our business.”

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