7.06.2011

Water with a kick - Saratoga man introduces caffeinated water

SARATOGA SPRINGS — There was a buzz on Broadway this weekend as people lined up outside the Hungry Spot Café to try a sample of Steve Gilbank’s latest product — Element caffeinated water.

“When people first hear the phrase ‘caffeinated water’ there’s a little confusion,” Gilbank said. “But once they realize it tastes exactly like water, people are really excited about it.”

Gilbank moved to Saratoga six years ago with his wife, Kristen, who grew up in the area, to start his other business, Innersourced, a manufacturing representative firm for consumer electronics.

It wasn’t until two years ago on a six-hour plane ride from New York to Los Angeles that Gilbank thought up the idea for a hydrating yet energizing caffeinated water.

“I was already three cups of coffee deep, and when I thought about my options, there were only energy drinks or coffee and nothing in between,” Gilbank said. “So I thought, ‘Why can’t I have a caffeinated water?’ ”

In the months that followed, Gilbank and his wife founded Mere Natural Inc., a start-up beverage manufacturer dedicated to creating inventive and purified products for busy but health-savvy consumers.

“It took nearly two years to get the water to taste exactly like water,” Gilbank said. “We used natural caffeine extracted from green coffee beans because it has no odor or taste in comparison to the synthetic caffeine a lot of products use today.”

In addition to purified water and natural caffeine, Element has one final ingredient that sets it apart from competitors.

“The final ingredient is theanine, which is an amino acid found in green tea leaves,” Gilbank said. “It’s part of why the Japanese are so fanatical about green tea, because studies show that theanine — especially when combined with caffeine — can increase focus and concentration and actually improve cognitive functioning.”

Element’s three ingredients are designed to meet three needs busy consumer have throughout the day, Gilbank said.

“The purified water hydrates, the natural caffeine motivates and the theanine helps you concentrate,” Gilbank said. “It’s a really simple combination, but it’s just that nobody has done it before.”

The basic, no-nonsense approach behind Element’s design and product mirrors the overarching ideology and strategy of Mere Natural’s business approach.

“The market for caffeinated beverages is so noisy,” Gilbank said. “It’s frustrating to pick up a drink with 30 ingredients and not even know what some are, but that turned into a market opportunity. We’re all about simplicity. We’re always going to have innovative yet simple products that remove all the noise.”

Gilbank only started receiving stock shipments of Element two weeks ago, but he has already made a splash in Saratoga Springs after making his mark on Broadway over the holiday weekend.

“The reaction was enormously positive,” Gilbank said of the local response to Element.

Right now, Element can be purchased online at Amazon.com or in town at the Hungry Spot Café above Mere Natural’s main office at 480 Broadway.

With a wealth of encouraging feedback and wholesale distributors nipping at his heels to get Element on the market, Gilbank and his team have big plans for the future.

“We want to have New York state covered by the fourth or fifth month and the entire Northeast by the end of a year,” Gilbank said. “We’re going to sell it in places that fit with our customer base. We love this town, and if we can get away with this in Saratoga, we’re going to do it here for the rest of our lives.”

SKL

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