OK, WHY STEALTH NUTRITION?
After we sold our old sports nutrition business and went our separate ways, I went back to university to keep myself busy. Nutrition and sport science have been passions of mine for a long time and selling the business didn’t really change that, it just meant I could spend more time in the library and, of course, ride my bike!
For a cyclist, it's always nice to ride the bike full gas for a while, and I was lucky to be able to link up with some very fast friends and we finally won the National Team Pursuit Championships (thanks Bongo, Adam and Jake).
This really made up for a previous attempt when we almost won, but I touched a wheel as we were about to make the catch and broke my back instead. If you really want to know how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the whole thing was caught on camera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L15c4rHDZ1A
BACK TO THE RESEARCH
Having finally won a stripy shirt (surely there must be easier ways?!), it was back to the library. I came across some research that made me think: "Might it be possible to use sticky rice starch to make an advanced isotonic energy gel?" I wondered if, with the right technology, we could make an isotonic energy gel without an artificial sweetener, multiple transportable carbohydrates and more energy per gel.
I decided to link up with my brother-in-law, who I’ve worked with before when we developed the first isotonic energy gel and a few other patents at our old business. Over the summer, things started to progress quickly, and we developed a new production process and plant. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. At one point we appeared to have made an energy bar – not a bad bar to be honest, but a bit difficult to eat when it's in a gel wrapper!
When you are working with new ingredients and processes you have to expect setbacks, but half the fun can be solving these kind of problems and learning from them. We have been working full gas to develop the range since the Tour came to the UK last year.
We are lucky that, because we have made some great innovative products in the past, both athletes and suppliers want to work with us. We have received support from the technical departments of some huge companies, especially because rice starch has not been used in energy gels before, despite there being some really interesting research in that area.
WORKING WITH TINKOFF-SAXO
We have also worked with lots of domestic athletes during the development process, but what really got us moving was when the guys at Tinkoff-Saxo asked us to develop for them a better energy gel. They are a fabulous team to work with because they want to be the best cycling team in the world, and have put in place a great technical support team to share ideas and facilitate feedback. Early prototypes were being used at the Vuelta last year and we have continued to develop the gels and, more recently, a super hydration drink.
Early prototypes were first seen under the STANP label.
In the future we will use the STANP packaging for prototypes and will hopefully make them available to people who just can't wait until we have finalised more retail-friendly packaging. Look out for new flavours of real fruit gels and protein gels in this format real soon...
At first, our primary focus was to make the best energy gels possible, starting with an advanced isotonic energy gel and then seeing what we could do with real fruit/rice starch combinations. I call this our old school/new school gel as it combines bananas (organic, fair trade bananas peeled in our factory) and our sticky rice starch base from the isotonic energy gels. By processing the fruit quickly under a vacuum and packing it off under nitrogen, it preserves the nutrition and the taste of the fruit. The first one was banana, but we have new flavours coming very soon.
Having made energy gels to the satisfaction of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, they then asked us if we could make an improved hydration drink, so we set to work. This hydration drink has now been developed and the team are using a prototype recovery/protein range, although it may take a little while before this is available.
For us, the focus is to do things a little differently than what is currently available. We are more interested in the consumer’s marginal gains and maximising performance than in squeezing out the maximum margin for a mass market.
Hopefully, sufficient people will appreciate what we are trying to do and we will be able to continue exploring more ways to help people achieve their performance goals. Either that, or I’ll have more time to ride my bike...