Transfarmation: How Arepa used ingredients unique to New Zealand to create a mental clarity drink
Brown says the idea for Arepa came from working for a large multinational energy drink company, but not being fond of selling caffeine and sugar to improve cognitive performance.
“I lost a couple of grandparents to brain-related illness, and from there I also saw friends and family struggle with anxiety and stress, so I thought, ‘Surely we can make something that’s good for you and good for your brain’,” Brown says.
Arepa is intended to be a focusing-yet-calming drink for people to consume to improve cognition functions before a stressful task, be it a social situation, public speaking event, or a sports competition.
It consists of a patented formula that uses New Zealand plant extracts of blackcurrants and pine bark, enzogenol (often used as a natural alternative for Ritalin), L-theanine (an amino acid and relaxing agent) and a rare amino acid extracted from green tea.
The idea for Arepa was formed in 2012, and Brown formally launched the product alongside co-founder Zac in 2017. Prior to its launch, Brown was working as business manager at government-funded Auckland operation FoodBowl, an innovation facility that helps the growth of food and beverage businesses.
While working there, fittingly, Brown was able to chip away at the R&D on his mental clarity drink.
Due to the nature of the wellness market and businesses that have previously made dubious health claims – which has led to a negative perception of these kind of products – Brown says Arepa wanted experts on board right from the start.
This is why it chose to invest almost $500,000 of its money on R&D. It is also investing in clinical studies to prove the effects of the drink.
Recently, a new study found consumption of Arepa improved cognitive performance and accuracy in physically fatigued athletes after 90 minutes of exercise. The company will publish these results early next year.
Brown says while Arepa is the product at the end of the supply chain in terms of ag-tech, there is huge interest in Silicon Valley and further abroad in food tech, which is where Sprout saw Arepa’s potential. He points to Impossible Foods, which has over received over US$100 million in investment and counts 130 of their 180 staff as food technologists.
“People always need to eat and drink, so food is getting smarter and the way you make it right from the farm gate is changing rapidly, with massive disruption,” Brown says. “We have that vertical integration that goes back all the way back to the soil and an end-to-end platform, so it’s what can we do along that value chain as a business.”
Overall, Arepa’s end goal is clear.
“Our vision is to empower people through mental clarity.”