Energy drinks and E-sports: XITE on building the next generation of energy drinks

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Co-founder Oliver Bennett is building the Xite brand in parallel to his FIA World Rallycross career. Pic: Xite Energy
Co-founder Oliver Bennett is building the Xite brand in parallel to his FIA World Rallycross career. Pic: Xite Energy

Related tags Energy drinks nootropics Sports nutrition

XITE Energy hit the market at the beginning of 2019, selling out of Holland & Barrett nationwide in its first two weeks. But creating a sugar-free blend of natural caffeine, ginseng and nootropics was just the start: it’s now building the brand in parallel to the co-founder’s rallycross career and the growing e-sport market.

The Bristol-brand was launched by a duo of Gen Z-ers straight out of university: and within six months had gained 1,000 independent listings with gyms, health foods and universities across the UK.

XITE was founded in parallel to co-founder Oliver Bennett’s FIA World Rallycross career: with rallycross and e-sports helping propel the brand forward and take on the big players in the energy drink category.

‘Gone are the days of cigarettes, synthetics and sugar!’

XITE energy was founded by Oliver Bennett and Megan Jones straight out of university two years ago, when they were just 24 and 21 years old respectively. Bennett had been studying business enterprise, while Jones had been studying drama. Both had a passion for health and fitness; neither could find an energy drink that met their demands.

xite energy founders

They created XITE, a ‘stripped back energy’ option, using natural caffeine (green coffee bean), natural flavours, pansax ginseng, cognitive amino acids (nootropics), L-carnitine and L-tyrosine.

“We used these ingredients to help provide a sustained energy lift without the crash, the natural caffeine stays in your system long and the nootropics and ginseng pair for a synergistic feeling of focus and energy,”​ Bennett told BeverageDaily.

“We made sure it was zero sugar: this was really hard to get the taste without that furry teeth feeling and strange sweetener after taste which we managed to achieve!

"The only sweetener we use is sucralose and we have no preservatives, colourings or taurine – the drink is clear in colour.”

Their university days convinced them there was a wider demand for their energy drink. “Gone are the days of cigarettes, synthetics and sugar: the new generation have left their market and are bringing in a new wave of health. The trends were more obvious in our social circles: from ditching the pub for the gym, and favouring sugar free mixers on a night out.”

Being a brand to be seen with

While a number of healthier soft drinks have hit the market, the duo believed there was a gap for the sort of product they would want to drink and be seen with (something different from the ‘flowery’ branding they saw dominate other healthier brands).

They wanted their brand to be one that could offer an experience, fit in with their own image, and resonate with fellow Gen Z-ers.

“We noticed there was a gap not just for a better for you energy drink, but one that could stand on a global footing with the dominant two brands and play into this area of a true dominating energy player with a real twist – and just happened to be healthier and taste better,”​ explained Jones.

“That for us was the real goal and gap.”

In 2019 the duo launched their product on the market. With the brand growing fast, they approached Holland & Barrett and the health food retailer showcased the brand nationwide:  “Sampling across the UK as a small and young team was so much fun, but so much work!”

Building an original brand

Formulating a drink that met that both tasted good and met their demands for health and wellness was only the start of the challenges the entrepreneurs faced.  

xite energy product image

“The biggest challenge started at the beginning from choosing a brand name that was punchy but also had a brand presence that many of the other leading energy drink brands have,” ​said Bennett. 

“Gaining distribution was the next major hurdle for us: we started off selling to independents, gyms and universities where we know the barrier to entry would be less and our ideal customer bases would be there!

"We then launched nationwide with Holland & Barrett and sold out within two weeks which was an amazing feeling!"

One of the biggest challenges, however, has been proving themselves as an original brand with something new to offer the market. 

“Growing our team has been a huge learning curve and challenge: it’s been key to find people of a similar age with similar ideals to really push our motion of changing the perception of energy drinks, for new and old energy drinkers,"​ continued Bennett.

“Persistence and drive have been the biggest contributors: we're often met with the comment: ‘Oh, so you're like - insert leading brand here’.

“And every time we overcame those hurdles once people tried the drink and saw that not only is our product different, but our brand is powerful.”

Driving success: FIA World Rallycross

Bennett has been a racing driver since he was five years old, starting off in motocross before moving to rally (woods). In 2018, he started a full time FIA World Rallycross career – around the same time as launching XITE Energy. He is currently #42 in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

“The FIA World Rallycross is off road Formula 1, where we travel 3 continents and 6 countries over 10 events," ​he explained.

“It’s given XITE Energy a huge global presence: there were only two other brands competing on this level with global TV and media coverage.

“My fan base has been a true success factor for XITE and shows the power of influencers within our marketing strategy."

And in the same way that the brand is exploring the next generation of energy drinks, it is also exploring this next generation of entertainment: esports. Esports – video game competitions which have been elevated to organized, multiplayer video game competitions between professional teams or players – have been growing with global revenues predicted to hit $1.1bn this year, according to gaming industry analytics firm Newzoo.  

XITE is partnering with Codemasters, a UK publisher of racing games, which will feature Bennett and his XITE branded Racing Mini Cooper SX1 as a playable car in the upcoming Dirt Rally 2.0 from January 2020 (the mini becomes the second XITE Energy-backed car to appear in the game with the Ford Fiesta available to all players from the launch of the game).

“Esports will be a big future of our marketing efforts,” ​explains Bennett. For example, the brand is featuring at the Regent Street Motor Show (London, Nov 2) with its simulators.

2020: a defining year

So what’s next for the brand? It’s the marketing efforts that will be key, says Bennett, with a list of partnerships and projects in the pipeline.  

“2020 is shaping up to be our defining year, continuing to push current listings,” ​said Bennett. “We have two other national retail listings to go live for 2020 which will be a huge boost to our distribution - although don’t count your chickens until they hatch!

“We’re hoping to launch an exclusive summer flavour with one of the retailers, and our marketing is going to grow tenfold. We just launched our 50 London taxi ‘IT’S CLEARLY BETTER’ campaign which we are testing.

“Our ambassador list is growing with the start of our ‘DO WHAT XITES YOU’ campaign and the online marketing arena is really where we hold our own in the ’startup’ energy market and resonates with our consumer base the best!”

Building on its success with students, it also wants to grow its presence on the 28 university campuses where it sells around 600 cans a month.

It will also continue its partnerships with events such as Codemasters, YogCon (gaming streamers), Insomnia (gaming festival) and Bodypower (fitness expo) – and even with plans for its first national festival.

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