“The No. 1 complaint he heard from riders was that sports drinks made them sick and bloated, and they couldn’t drink more when they needed to because of that,” Foster said.
At the time of this interview, Allen Lim, Skratch Labs’ founder, was in London working with Taylor Phinney who finished fourth in the men’s Olympic cycling road race.
As a sports scientist and coach, Allen has worked with names like Lance Armstrong and the Garmin cycling team. He’s had plenty of opportunities to test ride the formula for his sports drink, simply named Exercise Hydration Mix.
The current formula is a result of being put to the test by bicyclists in a 2007 pre-Tour de France training camp.
“With access to top athletes in the world, Allen had the opportunity to tweak the recipe,” Foster said. “He tried to replicate what’s in sweat.”
Salt, electrolytes, fruit powder, glucose and sucrose are Lim’s foundation ingredients. What he’s left out includes artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors as well as a good portion of the sugar found in most sports drinks. The amount of sodium is higher.
“Drinking water can actually dehydrate you,” Foster said. “Without enough salt, the body gets rid of water to keep the sodium-to-water ratio balanced.”
In addition to eliminating the water, the flush eliminates electrolytes as well.
“Most sports drinks are made with sodium chloride whereas ours uses sodium citrate, which is about 900 times more expensive, but it doesn’t upset the stomach,” Foster said, explaining why Exercise Hydration Mix is in the higher price range.
One pound of the mix sells for $19.50. That makes 10 liters and sets the price for each 16 ounce serving at about $1.
In training events such as the Tour de France, bicyclists are on their bikes for five to seven hours a day and needing to drink one to one and one-half liters an hour, according to Foster.
“If people lose more than 2 percent of their body weight in sweat, they’ll experience an 11 percent drop in their power,” he added, crediting the statistic to Lim, whose doctoral dissertation focused on biomechanics, aerodynamics and physiological responses to the stress of exertion in cycling.
In addition to the Exercise Hydration Mix, Skratch Labs sells Everyday Hydration Mix for when the demand on a body is less. Foster pointed out that the benefit for both drinks goes beyond power-surging cyclists.
“They’re great for when you’re on a plane, sick or have a hangover.”
Lim treats private training customers to another one of his recipes that focuses on nourishing what a body needs for optimum output. He makes fresh rice cakes using sushi rice, scrambled eggs, bacon and soy sauce.
“We don’t sell those because they’re made fresh, and we haven’t found a way to keep them that way, yet,” Foster said.
Instead, Lim and Biju Thomas wrote a cookbook that sells for $24.95: “The Feed Zone – Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes” and have another book on the way. To date, Scratch has sold a little more than 25,000 cookbooks.
In addition to availability on Skratch’s website, the drink mixes are selling in about 200 shops – primarily bicycle-related. The company is getting into three to five new shops weekly, shifting the ratio from an original 95 percent of sales online to 65 percent with the rest coming from dealers, according to Foster.
“We’re growing an average of 15 percent every week.”
Along with Lim and Ian MacGregor, Foster is one of three major partners in the company. They officially launched Skratch in February with a little less than $100,000, mostly coming from personal funding. “We’re mostly getting paid back now,” Foster said.
Skratch is currently housed in a 6,000-square-foot site on Pearl Street but since the building has just been sold, the company is searching for a new location. The drink mixes are made in a professional kitchen in Denver.
Future plans include taking the products to markets beyond the cycling world. “The basic product is fantastic for anyone who sweats, and that’s a lot of people,” Foster said.
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