Ethan Hirshberg founded Ethan’s Functional Shots two years ago with a focus on the benefits of apple cider vinegar. The ACV line has grown to six flavors like Cinnamon Maple and Ginger Pineapple.
Last fall he rolled out four MCT shots with a pre-workout or meal replacement function, and in June debuted two flavors of Fire shots with immunity benefits. He told BeverageDaily that the next natural progression was energy.
Food as preventative healthcare
Hirshberg recognized that while the functional shot market is growing, the majority of the space is dominated by big brand energy drinks made with lab manufactured caffeine powders. But because consumers are increasingly interested in health and ingredients transparency, he saw it as a problem waiting to be solved.
“People are coming around to the idea of food as preventative healthcare,” Hirshberg said, particularly among millennial women and those who frequent health-forward grocery chains like Whole Foods.
“Energy Shots account for roughly 99% of the shot market and most available options contain ingredients that pose major health risks to consumers. With the launch of our Energy Shots, we set out to create an organic formula that gives consumers a healthier lift without the chemical taste or crash, and most importantly, without the added risks.”
The new Ethan’s shots come in three flavors--Pomegranate Blueberry, Pineapple Aloe and Tart Cherry Ginger. Each 2oz bottle contains 150mg of caffeine, which comes from a blend of organic green tea and organic guayusa extract.
They also incorporate cordyceps and lion’s mane mushroom extract with B vitamins and no artificial flavors. The shots will launch first in Whole Foods this week before rolling out to Wegmens.
A future for function
Hirshberg believes that the functional shots market has major potential and will continue to grow, because consumers are getting overwhelmed by all the new choices in healthy beverages.
Kombuchas, sparkling waters and coconut waters dominate the shelves, but he sees shots as a reasonable and convenient way to deliver function, with the flexibility of incorporating them into other drinks like smoothies.
To meet consumer demand, the company introduced its original ACV shot formula in 16oz sizes, but they did not perform well at Whole Foods. Hirshberg then tried them at a lower price in Walmart stores, and found that a lot more older consumers were interested in the product.
“People wanting to be healthier is not confined to a certain age group,” he said.
And it all comes back to function, which Hirshberg said drives the innovation at Ethan’s. He thinks it is more about what function consumers are looking for, and less about specific ingredients.
“We see a lot of different ingredients become trendy and fade away,” Hirshberg said, but the 2oz shots format is likely to stick. Next for Ethan’s may be exploring other functions like sleep assistance and relaxation.