Refix’s recovery drink does not contain added sugar, preservatives or colouring agents, and its 250ml recyclable glass bottles hold just 3.5 calories.
Of particular interest, however, is how this Spanish start-up sets itself apart within the clean label market. According to co-founder Raúl Anta, who launched in the start-up with his brother in 2016, the answer lies in the ingredients list: spring water, lemon juice, stevia, and…20% seawater.
The salty edge
The seawater in Refix’s beverage is sourced from Galicia, on Spain’s north-west coast, which Anta claims is one of the most biologically productive coastlines in the world.
Drinking seawater provides multiple health benefits, Anta suggested. According to the founder, consumption can help modulate the metabolism of glucose, regulate blood cholesterol levels, and relieve fatigue after exercising.
“The reason that we use seawater is that [it] has the same mineral salts as our blood, but in a high concentration,” explained Anta. “We mix one past seawater with four parts spring water, in order to get the same concentration of minerals salts that [the] human body [has].”
Refix was not the first to leverage the health properties of seawater for human consumption. Originally, “it was a French discovery,” Anta explained, adding that nowadays tennis player Rafael Nadal drinks seawater to replenish his mineral salt reserves after exercise.
Despite the Spanish tennis champion’s reported consumption of seawater, the ingredient is relatively new to the beverage sector. Traditionally, “people use seawater to cook fish, but not to drink. It’s something very new,” said Anta.
This, in part, is why Refix is looking to expand distribution to more ‘innovative’ countries, we were told. The start-up currently sells its product in Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia, and exports to the US, which represents its largest customer base.
“We want to sell in Northern Europe,” said Anta, adding that Scandinavian countries are more open to innovative drinks than his native country. “Spain, as a country, drinks ‘typical’ drinks – such as Gatorade or Coca-Cola. It is not an innovative country.”
Hair of the dog?
Refix markets its drink as having a double function: The drink can help to relieve fatigue after exercising, and, according to Anta, after “a crazy night out – as it helps to alkalize and reduce acid levels”.
Drinking two bottles of Refix before going to sleep is the “best option to eliminate [a] hangover produced by alcohol”, the co-founder claimed. “When you drink alcohol, you eliminate it via your lungs…a lot of water is [eliminated] by the urine, and that urine has a lot of mineral salts,” he explained.
However, if you drink 20% seawater mixed with 80% spring water, you recover the same mineral salts, in the same concentration, that you lose in urine, he added.
Refix describes the taste of its recovery drink as similar to Gatorade, “but a bit salty”. However, a similar flavour profile doesn’t automatically place Refix in the sports recovery beverage market, according to Anta.
“We don’t have competitors,” he told us. “We don’t compare [ourselves] with Gatorade or Powerade, and while there are two or three brands [in Spain] that use seawater, we don’t [see them as] competitors because they use just 3-4% seawater.
“You need to use 20-25% seawater to make a functional drink. Less than that and you don’t notice the benefits.”