Found in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, Ilex guayusa leaves are naturally high in caffeine, l-theanine, and polyphenols, RUNA’s CEO Alex Galindez told BeverageDaily at Natural Products Expo West, where the company launched five new flavors: mango, pomegranate, pineapple, unsweetened mint strawberry, and unsweetened watermelon.
Each lightly carbonated, sweetened flavor of RUNA (mango, pineapple, berry, and pomegranate) contains 150mg of caffeine and 70 calories per 12-ounce can, while the brand's unsweetened and carbonated energy drinks (mint strawberry, watermelon, blood orange, and lime) have 0 calories, 0 grams of organic cane sugar, and 150 mg of caffeine.
“I think the consumer now still needs the energy but they just want to have it delivered in a form that’s more natural that doesn’t make them afraid of what they’re putting in their bodies,” Galindez said.
RUNA said it is converting consumers drinking conventional energy drinks while also attracting new entrants to the category such as “females who are coming in from cold brew coffee.”
“I think that one of the myths that some of the traditional energy drink players have kind of driven into the category is that it needs to be ‘formulated in a lab’ to deliver the benefit,” Galindez said.
“The fact that we actually have an organic energy drink that is single source caffeine coming from a leaf… (which) is really in line with what consumers are looking for because it delivers the caffeine but does it in a natural form.”
In addition to developing its line of energy drink alternatives, RUNA also created a proprietary supply chain for sourcing guayusa that started with the company’s founders teaching Ecuadorian farmers how to commercialize the leaf, Galindez said.
“We actually invested for four or five years since the brand’s inception in that supply chain …the leaf had never been commercialized before RUNA arrived,” she said.
As a certified B Corporation, RUNA purchases guayusa at a Fairtrade price to help drive a positive impact for its farmers, communities, and environment.
“The more cans and the more beverages that we sell, the higher the demand and then ultimately the more impact we’re driving.”