DOWNTOWN — Santa Monican Cameron Killeen was in Las Vegas last summer for his job in finance when he noticed a co-worker, who had been out drinking the night before, sipping a brightly colored liquid out of a square bottle.

“He said it was a baby drink and if you drink it, you feel completely better,” Killeen said.

The liquid with the healing powers was Pedialyte, the stuff doctors and mothers give kids to rehydrate after being sick. Killeen had never heard of it before, but decided to try it a week later after a night of drinking.

It worked.

Meanwhile, across the country, his friend, Brandin Cohen, who worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, saw players guzzling the stuff to stay hydrated. Killeen and his friends noticed the liquid drink was based on oral rehydration therapy, or a liquid solution used to counteract dehydration.

Last fall, Loyola Marymount University graduates Killeen, Hayden Fulstone and Cohen decided to come up with a drink of their own battle the dreaded hangover, make it all-natural and healthy and target those who went overboard at the bar, as well as sports athletes and people who lead active lifestyles.

After months of research with a beverage consultant, Santa Monica-based Liquid I.V., a play on the I.V.s found at hospitals, was born, bringing another product into the already crowded sports drink market, which is expected to hit $55 billion in sales by 2018, according to a report by companiesandmarkets.com

Liquid I.V. bills itself as an all-natural rehydration therapy product. (Photo courtesy Liquid I.V.)

Liquid I.V. bills itself as an all-natural rehydration therapy product. (Photo courtesy Liquid I.V.)

The sector has grown strongly in recent years (up 64 percent from 2007 to 2012); with less than 50 percent penetration there is significant room for further growth, industry experts said.

Sports nutrition drinks are divided into three major categories: hypotonic, which contain relatively low concentrations of electrolytes (salts) and sugars; isotonic, which contain mid-level concentrations of electrolytes (salts) and sugars; and hypertonic, which contain high concentrations of electrolytes (salts) and sugars.

One of the keys to sports drink marketing is that, unlike the health claims of some other beverages, the basic science is irrefutable. The components of sports drinks (electrolytes, water and carbohydrates) are essential for hydration during strenuous exercise.

The role of sports nutrition products has witnessed a paradigm shift from “muscle building” to one that promotes wellness and disease prevention. A fitness-crazy generation and the good-health image of sports drinks are factors driving growth in sports/energy drinks and sports/energy bars segments, according to companiesandmarkets.com

Santa Monica would seem like a perfect fit for Liquid I.V., as it is home to the original Muscle Beach. Many residents are active, whether it be running along Palisades Park, surfing, climbing the Fourth Street stairs or testing their cores at one of the many yoga studios. Santa Monica is also home to several Farmers’ Markets and natural food stores.

Liquid I.V., which currently employs 10 people, is focusing on the local community for growth.

“There’s a huge synergy with the vibe of the community along with our product,” Killeen said.

The company expects 10 to 15 convenience stores in Santa Monica to carry the product this fall, as well as a few local bars.

The drink contains three ingredients found in oral rehydration therapy: sugar, sodium and potassium; various B vitamins; and a proprietary blend of ingredients that get rid of toxins, Killeen said. Compared to Pedialyte, he said it’s completely “all-natural” and includes essential vitamins. When compared to Gatorade, it has three times the electrolytes and less than half the sugar and calories, he said.

In various surveys, the founders said the drink tasted good too.

The company started marketing separate products, with almost identical ingredients: Liquid I.V. Hangover for hangovers and Liquid I.V. Sport for people with active lifestyles.

The drink has also caught on amongst baseball players, with folks like Ryan Wheeler of the Colorado Rockies and Adam Eaton, with the Diamondbacks, using it.

When people drink, alcohol will turn off a hormone in their bodies, said Jason Hove a family medicine physician with UCLA.

“That’s why people notice if they’ve been drinking all day, they have to pee all night,” Hove said. “You’re urinating pure water.”

Symptoms from hangovers and dehydration include headaches and feeling “crummy,” he said.

“The real remedy is not to overconsume [alcohol] in the first place,” Hove said.

In sports, athletes tend to sweat a lot, which is salty, and causes the body to lose its electrolytes.

Hove said the oral rehydration fluids endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine, the global association of sports medicine and health and fitness professionals, have a similar electrolyte concentration as what’s in Liquid I.V.

Folks can buy the product online through a subscription service. So far, more than 300 people have paid $14.99 a month to have Liquid I.V. shipped to them by using the website, http://liquid-iv.com/

There’s a free trial, where a customer signs up for the first month and gets six packets of powder that each make a 20 ounce bottle of Liquid I.V. After the first free month, it’s $14.99 per month or customers can opt for a one-time purchase of six packets for $19.99.

Since the summer, the company said local distribution of the product has grown to a handful of convenience stores and gas stations around LMU.

The company’s long-term goal is to have one product that’s well-known, Killeen said.

By next year, Liquid I.V. hopes to grow to 50 campuses in a nationwide college ambassador pilot program that launched this month. College students get the company’s T-shirts and bottles to push the brand on campus, Killeen said.

For more information on Liquid I.V visit http://liquid-iv.com/ or use the company’s promo code “LivSantaMonica” to get a first month free of Liquid I.V.

 

ameera@smdp.com

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