Athletes juiced by Boulder drink sing praises of cherries’ delight
University studies done in recent years tout the anti-inflammatory properties of the tart Montmorency cherry used in Cheribundi juice. In addition to helping athletes’ muscles recover more quickly, juice made from the tart cherries also is believed to help sufferers of gout and people who have problems sleeping, according to company information and studies from the University of Vermont and elsewhere.
Cheribundi Inc. is based in Boulder; the juice is fresh-pressed from cherries at a plant in Geneva, New York.
“We believe through research that (the juice) does things for football players that can help them,” said Malcolm Blacken, CU’s director of strength and conditioning. “Cherry juice is an anti-inflammatory that reduces pain from the contact sport. That’s why we try to saturate the system with cherry juice.”
It’s the first year athletes at the University of Colorado are drinking the juice as part of a formal training regimen, meaning no statistical information has been compiled about its benefits. But other schools’ sports teams across the nation also use it, including the top five ranked university football programs: Alabama, Louisiana State, Florida State, Oregon and Southern California, said Brian Ross, chief executive of the company.
In addition to the anti-inflammatory properties of Cheribundi, players get vitamins and melatonin from the juice that can help them rest, Blacken said. He declined to give the financial amount of the contract that CU sports programs have with Cheribundi.
“We’ll see how it goes. The response has been positive with our players,” Blacken said.
University officials contacted Cheribundi to ask about using the juice after a CU coach came from another university that had used it, Ross said. Cheribundi juices now are used by 13 of the Top 25-ranked football programs in the nation, he said.
Ross has led Cheribundi for the past three years, closing a $4.5 million equity investment round in spring 2011 to help the company grow. Equity investors included Greenwich, Connecticut,-based Emil Capital Partners and former lead investor Cayuga Venture Fund in Ithaca, New York.
Cheribundi is now sold in 3,000 retail stores across the nation, Ross said.
The beverage guru previously was involved with Izze Beverage Co. and Oregon Chai Inc., a subsidiary of Kerry Group plc based in Portland, Oregon. Carbonated fruit soda company Izze started in Boulder and was bought by PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP) in Purchase, New York, in 2006 for an undisclosed sum.
Cheribundi has five employees at its Boulder headquarters and seven sales and marketing people at offices around the nation as well as the plant in upstate New York, Ross said. While the company does not disclose revenues, sales are in the less-than-$10 million-per-year category, he said, but growing rapidly.
“We’re growing exponentially. We have a great product, and people are learning about the benefits of tart cherry juice,” Ross said. “With the success of the sports teams, it’s just beginning to coalesce.”
Gold medal Olympic rower Esther Lofgren in Alexandria, Virginia, is a brand ambassador for the juice, as is endurance runner Yassine Diboun in Portland, Oregon.
In addition, more recent experiments at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City show that volunteers had reduced muscle pain and weakness after intense bouts of strength training if they drank two 8- or 12-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice — the equivalent of about 100 Montmorency cherries — per day.
Diboun said he has seen benefits from drinking Cheribundi juice. After running the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains in 16 hours and 43 minutes in June, Diboun said he drank a large bottle of Cheribundi.
“I was just a wreck. I was lying on the bed, and I couldn’t move,” Diboun said. “In the morning, I was able to get up and walk around. I don’t know if the juice had anything to do with it or not, but I would like to think that it did.”
Diboun’s regular training regimen includes running 60 to 120 miles per week and some cross training in other areas. He sees drinking Cheribundi juice as a natural alternative to taking steroids.
“With what I do for a living, I do a lot of damage to my body, and recovery is of paramount importance,” Diboun said. “Juice is the ultimate help.”
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