Steve Gilbank has created something he’s hopeful—and confident—will take off. Caffeinated water.
“I came up with the idea a couple years ago. I was flying across the country on an airplane and had a lot of coffee but was limited in my choices of a follow up,” said Gilbank. “It hit me as I was looking at a healthy alternative for getting energy, why can’t I get caffeinated water?”
Months of market research and more months of product development all led up to the debut of Element in mid-July. It’s purified water, natural caffeine extracted from green coffee beans and theanine, found in the extract of green tea leaves that enhances focus and concentration. One bottle of Element is equal to a small coffee or a 16-ounce diet soda.
His palate and those of Saratoga Springs residents who sampled Element, say the caffeinated water tastes like, well, water.
“I think until someone pops the cap and makes that decision for themselves, I like to let them make that judgment,” said Gilbank.
Getting Element shelf-ready was no easy feat.
“There was a lot of market research to determine is it a viable product for market, what’s the interest, the target market, all those things. Then it’s about developing the product itself,” said Gilbank.
Figuring out a tasteless way to mix caffeine with purified water was tricky.
“Caffeine in its natural form is extremely bitter … if we were going to make a purified product taste just like water, we needed to get over the hurdle of the main ingredient not having a taste,” said Gilbank.
He did that by consulting chemists and flavor companies to develop the perfect formula. The addition of theanine provided Element with its “slogan”: hydrate, motivate, concentrate.
“For the type of person who’s a healthful, busy, energetic professional or family-oriented person, during the day they’re getting pulled in so many different directions,” said Gilbank. “Theanine is the one ingredient in green tea separate from all the antioxidants that enhances focus and concentration.”
At the same time that Element was being created, so was the company that would sell it. Mere Natural is run by Gilbank and his wife, Kristen. With an office on Broadway below the Hungry Spot Café in Saratoga Springs, the start-up beverage company encompasses everything Element and any future products stand for.
“We’re going to wrap ourselves around a lot of what we did with Element; that’s the concept of us. Keep it simple, stay innovative,” said Gilbank. “We’re not going to be a lot of colors and flavors and artificial ingredients. In any of our products that we develop, they’ll always be very simplified to the market that’s unique of our customer base … they’re stopping to look at labels, they want to know what’s in there.”
He can’t reveal any details yet, but Gilbank said he’s almost concluded a new product extension that he hopes to have to market within the next seven to 10 months.
“I want to promise everyone it’ll be in the same direction of how we were. Very pure and simple and innovative,” said Gilbank.
Surprisingly, Mere Natural isn’t the only company that gets Gilbank’s attention and energy. He owns and manufacturers representation firm for the consumer electronics industry.
“Consumer electronics manufacturers come to our firm and we get them into all the national accounts in North America like Best Buy or Costco and manage the sales and marketing of products every month,” said Gilbank.
Juggling both businesses is “extremely hard” but Gilbank is already looking to the future.
“Mere Natural, five years from now, I think we’d look back and see Element as innovative for its time but mainstream in that time. We would be providing products that had the same innovation as Element does,” said Gilbank.
Element is bottled locally and Gilbank hopes to strike deals with wholesale distributors.
Element is available at the Hungry Spot Café or online through amazon.com and drinkelement.com and is $39.99 for a 24-pack.