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After success among pro athletes, tart cherry sports drink brand CHERRiSH eyes mainstream consumers

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

After success among pro athletes, tart cherry sports drink brand CHERRiSH eyes mainstream consumers

Related tags Sports drink Antioxidant

Entrepreneur Dan Haggart learned from avid marathoners that many of them would down a mix of tart cherry concentrate and water as a recovery drink. He decided to make a ready-to-drink version of it.

Haggart started CHERRiSH​ around seven years ago, around the time he was running a lot of marathons. He would buy concentrate of tart cherry at the health food store, mix it with water, and one day thought “if someone made this into a ready-to-drink, it would be heck of a lot easier.”

CHERRiSH is sport drink line made out of a blend of tart Montmorency cherry concentrate from a Michigan co-op called Cherry Central, and sweet Bing cherry concentrate from Royal Ridge Fruit in Washington state.

The rationale behind the blend was flavor. There are other tart cherry drinks on the market positioned for sports recovery, but to enjoy gulping down 8oz or 12oz of 100% tart cherry juice requires somewhat of an acquired taste.

“One of the things we discovered that was a detriment to the tart cherry juice was the taste, it was almost too tart, and if you drank too much of it you could have a digestion issue,”​ he told us. “So we started to experiment with adding sweet cherries to the Montmorency cherries which is what most people use.”

Haggart explained that the blend didn’t deteriorate the nutrition profile of the final product either. “The story has always been tart cherries are extremely powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, sweet cherries are not. So I thought, boy, has anyone tried to prove that?”​ he told us.

He measured the antioxidant capacity of the resulting mix, and found them to be in favorable ORAC values. “The problem with the ORAC scale is that it’s tested outside the human body not in the human body,” ​he said. “There really isn’t any other test that’s been available to measure the ability to absorb free-radicals in the body and lower inflammation.”

Because of that, he wanted to supplement analysis of ORAC values with clinical trials on the product itself. In a 2010 study​ led by Dr. Kerry Kuehl of the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR, researchers found that ingesting tart cherry juice for seven days prior to and during a strenuous running event can minimize post-run muscle pain. This original formula for CHERRiSH included apple juice as a sweetener.

Another ongoing study led by Dr. Kuehl will look at the potential benefits of the Bing and Montmorency cherry blend.

Tart cherry a 'growing' flavor in sports nutrition


23-Oct-2018 By Adi Menayang

A recent report by flavor company Synergy Flavors looked at the emerging, growing, and 'mainstreaming' flavors in the sports nutrition category. Tart cherry as a flavor was classified as 'growing' for sports nutrition, as it is starting to appear in food products with potential to mainstream in the near future. READ MORE

Aiming mainstream buyers

CHERRiSH’s route to market started at the pro-athlete space. A self-funded endeavor, Haggart reached out to professional sports teams.

“[Sports teams were] a low-hanging fruit because they will have a nutritionist that is part of the staff,”​ he said. “And that person knew about tart cherry juice, and in most cases they were taking concentrate and mixing it with water and serving it to the athletes after a workout, which was a little bit cumbersome.”

According to Haggart, a majority of the NFL teams order his product on a regular basis, as do around around 40 NCAA major college sports teams.

Starting last year, the company started to focus on marketing to mainstream audiences. It’s first foray outside of the professional athlete space was, logically, gyms and health clubs.

“We have a partnership with LifeTime Fitness, a chain of very upscale athletic clubs in the US and Canada,” ​he said. “We went over Gold’s Gym, we went after Equinox in New York, those clubs have been very good for us.”

In terms of retail, Haggart said the company has signed on with big distributors UNFI, KeHE, and DPI Specialty Foods. Currently, its distribution footprint includes the East and West coasts as well as the Rocky Mountains.

CHERRiSH can be found in big retailers like Safeway and Albertsons, as well as small specialty retailers and delis in Los Angeles and New York.

“It has turned out to be quite successful,” ​Haggart said about its expansion strategy.

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