Speaking to BeverageDaily.com, entrepreneur James Shillcock – who launched his chilled, matcha-based RTD in the UK last week, explains that matcha is a high-grade green tea grown in Japan and is used there as part of traditional tea ceremonies.
Shillcock sees it as his mission to get the message across that matcha is the world’s most powerful green tea, due to its impressive nutritional and health credentials.
Vivid uses around 3/4g of tea per product, Shillcock explains, and he says this is much more than some iced teas on the market that contain so little tea “it’s almost pointless it being in there”.
The base tea itself isn’t cheap – 30g of matcha costs £25 ($39) – but Vivid sells the teas in three flavor variations - Pear & Rhubarb, Grape & Elderflower, Lime, Ginger & Honey - for a relatively affordable £1.85/330ml, and Shillcock explains why matcha is unique and so high in antioxidants.
Impressive nutritional benefits
Two weeks before harvesting the plants are covered, and produce more chlorophyll to compensate for lack of sunlight; chlorophyll is where the antioxidants reside, so the leaves are rich in nutrients.
They are then harvested, deveined and destemmed, then dried and ground down into a very fine powder – meaning that matcha is more nutrient-rich than other forms of green tea.
And because it’s ground down into a powder, Shillcock explains that drinkers ingest the whole leaf, as opposed to typical green teas where water absorbs some of the nutrients therefrom.
“We’re fairly confident that in terms of nutritional benefits – you’re looking at getting 10 cups of green tea from one carton of Vivid,” he says.
Unique caffeine, L-Theanine combination
In terms of matcha’s health benefits, Shillcock says the drink is unique due to a unique combination of caffeine and L-Theanine, an amino acid found only in tea leaves and in especially high levels in matcha.
“What L-Theanine does is release caffeine over a slightly longer period of time, which is why you get a sustained boost rather than the highs and lows that you can get with, say, coffee. That’s something we really want to focus on with the branding,” Shillcock says.
He notes a crowded market, with numerous health drinks on sale such as smoothies and coconut waters, but insists that the vast majority of people sitting at desks all day need a caffeine hit.
“But people don’t necessarily want to sacrifice their health for that – they don’t necessarily want another black coffee, another Red Bull. So we’ve struck gold here with the best of both worlds – a healthy drink that also gives you a boost,” he says.
Vivid launched last week into Planet Organic, As Nature Intended and Whole Foods Market, and Shillcock says the current focus is on independent health stores and onsite catering for offices: “a perfect market…especially offices in the London area”.
Welcomes interest from US
However, in the longer term he has big ambitions for Vivid and will target deals with major UK retailers: “Yet we’re under no illusions about simply chucking the product on shelves and seeing it sell. We need to build a core consumer base first.”
“But we’ve had interest from premium stores in the UK, bigger multiples and quite a lot of US interest – which is very interesting for us,” Shillcock adds.
US firm Motto claims to have launched the world’s first matcha-based beverage and won BevNet’s ‘New Beverage Showdown’ award for the drink in June 2013.
“This was before we announced our launch – it was great to see they’d won that award because it shows there is growing interest and demand for matcha,” Shillcock said.
“What’s interesting about that brand is that it’s a fizzy drink – the branding looks amazing but I’m intrigued to try it,” he adds.
“I’m surprised they’ve gone with a fizzy drinking given that everything around matcha talks about its health benefits – it just seems an odd route. You’d be less likely to drink it before or after the gym because it’s fizzy,” Shillcock says.