Launched in 2008, AOk Drinks is the UK’s only antioxidant drink made with red grapes, cherries, aloe vera and ginger. Mr. Stuart Roberts, Founder, tells EatSleepDrink about how his background as a trained nutritionist has helped to shape the growth of this innovative drinks producer.
Mile High, as it was formerly known, flew off the shelves in 30 Waitrose stores when it was first launched in September 2008. Following on from this initial success, this wonderfully refreshing natural juice drink has achieved nationwide distribution via a listing with www.ocado.com and is now sold in over 100 Waitrose stores across England and Wales. In 2009, AOk drinks also secured a listing with specialist health food and drink distributor Tree of Life, which further boosted the brand’s presence in all good health stores nationwide.
Towering above the competition
“Due to my background as a nutritionist, I thought it would be a great idea to develop a drink full of antioxidants that offered a great taste as well,” Stuart begins by explaining. “The drink itself was very much a product of my experience in the industry. As a consequence, AOk was borne out of many years of research and the need to create a drink, which genuinely helps to improve energy and reduce the harmful effects of free radicals on the body”.
Indeed, research published in 2003 in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry revealed that the optimum daily intake of antioxidants is between 3,000 and 5,000 ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) units, as Stuart continues. “In this test, we scored 3,600 ORAC units per 250 millilitre, which is a result of our powerful combination of multiple antioxidant substances making AOk an exceptional antioxidant drink”.
When compared with the antioxidant strength of other juices in the same 250 millilitre bottles, it is little surprise that AOk has achieved such success in such a relatively short amount of time. Indeed, apple juice contains just 1,500 ORAC units, while orange and tomato juice – at 1,500 and 275 ORAC units respectively – do little to threaten the undoubted health benefits of AOk’s juice, as Stuart notes. “Drinking a 250 millilitre bottle of our juice is a quick, easy and delicious way to ensure that you supplement your daily antioxidant needs. At only 145 calories, AOk is also one of your ‘five a day’ and contains the recommended levels of daily antioxidants as well.
“In a nutshell, in health and well-being, combinations will always have a stronger effect than individual actions or substances. We see this in nutrition where vitamins and minerals never work effectively in the body in isolation but always together. When a person is treated in nutritional medicine it is achieved using the synergistic effect of changes in lifestyle and diet along with combinations of supplements,” he confirms. “We believe that this synergy concept does not just apply to the AOk drink but to all areas of health and well-being. For instance, by combining small regular exercise sessions with small, gradual changes in diet you can achieve amazing results without having to have major upheavals in your everyday life and routine”.
The benefit of branding
Being an expert in nutrition, Stuart applied his experience when he formulated AOk and the resulting combination of different antioxidants makes the company’s juice one of the most potent and effective antioxidant drinks on the market. Furthermore, AOk also contains naturally occuring melatonin, which has been scientifically linked to reducing the symptoms of jet leg. Indeed, one of the main reasons behind the development of AOk was due to Stuart and Co-Founder, Mr. Richard Hammond’s joint interest in flying. “I believed that I could apply my health and fitness expertise to creating a drink that would improve general well-being for all lifestyles and life stages – from pregnancy to ageing, to recovering from a stressful journey”, Stuart describes.
Richard’s direct experience of 15 years in the aviation industry presented the company with the perfect opportunity to put Mile High – as it was then known – through its paces. “When Richard trialled Mile High with his cabin crew colleagues we received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Although the drink was launched as Mile High in 2008, we decided to re-brand it 2010 following consumer feedback that the name was limiting its potential acceptance as a mainstream, everyday, lifestyle drink. The fact that just one small bottle provides the recommended daily amount of antioxidants is a huge attraction to the growing number of health-conscious consumers looking to have the autonomy to improve their health, maintain fitness levels, improve their general well-being or simply treat themselves to a great tasting drink after a long day at work”.
Designed for life
Designed to help consumers take control of their health and well-being, AOk Drinks have already proved a great success with shoppers up-and-down the UK. Indeed, drinking just one 250 millilitre bottle of AOk provides the recommended daily amount of antioxidants, which have a major impact on well-being and are vital in maintaining optimum health, helping to render free radicals that are harmless to the body, as Stuart tells us. “Free radicals are highly active and dangerous chemical groups that are unavoidable and, everyday, our bodies are exposed to vast numbers of them. Their destructive actions on the body are known as oxidation – hence the name antioxidant.
“These free radicals play a role in the development of many diseases as a result of the degeneration of body tissues, which also contributes to the ageing process,” he explains. “Some examples of more commonly known diseases that free radicals contribute to include cardiovascular disease, cataracts, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and strokes. Fortunately, nature has equipped our bodies with special antioxidant substances that are produced to neutralise the harmful effects of free radicals. These, in conjunction with antioxidant substances obtained from a healthy, fresh food diet containing plenty of multi-coloured vegetables and fruits, helps to mitigate the damage caused by free radicals”.
As well as combating these free radicals, a bottle of AOk will also do wonders for stress and exhaustion, as Stuart continues by affirming. “When we’re stressed we often ignore our diet, cut back on exercise and feel exhausted. We all encounter inevitable stresses in our lives, so giving ourselves the best-possible support through exercise and a well-balanced whole-food diet is essential in helping us to cope with unavoidable stressful situations”.
Drinking to the future
Having achieved so much success during some of the toughest business conditions in living memory, the company is understandably keen to maintain its considerable momentum, as Stuart is unsurprisingly quick to point out. “We’re all working hard to build the AOk brand and launch it into a wide variety of outlets within the health, fitness, travel and general grocery sectors. A huge part of our philosophy is to educate and inform people about the small steps they can take each day to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. One of our core aims is to increase antioxidant awareness, as well as provide a thirst-quenching, original and innovative juice drink that is packaged with natural goodness.
“We’re also working on a variety of other pack formats and further recipe extensions,” he states. “Ultimately, there are no quick-fixes to health and nutrition. However, there are small steps that we can take that add up to massive changes in how we look and feel, such as drinking our juice! Rest assured, everything that we do will maintain the same brand credentials and, most importantly, the health emphasis that is integral to AOk Drinks. We have a great team of people working at the company and we’re always looking to get the feedback of consumers to improve our recipe. In my mind, of all the things I do, hearing positive feedback from the consumer is what makes everything worthwhile. In 2012, I would very much like to expand the availability of AOk into more stores around the UK – we’re thrilled to be in Waitrose and Ocado, but there are many more outlets, including hotels, restaurants and cafés that we think the drink would be perfect in.
“Over the next five years, we are looking to consolidate our market position and expand our range of juices in order to really capitalise on the demand for our juice,” Stuart concludes. “Ultimately, it is our aim to be synonymous with the antioxidant drinks market – not only is AOk made with complete integrity, it is convenient, nutritionally-sound and great value. Particularly with the forthcoming Olympics in the UK, we feel there is a great opportunity for us to push the recovery-value of AOk in the sports market. Many people don’t realise that strenuous exercise creates a huge amount of free radicals because of the oxygen it requires – AOk is therefore the perfect drink to aid recovery as it helps to replace vital antioxidants!”
Already available in 102 Waitrose stores, online via www.ocado.com and www.victoriahealth.com, AOk is also sold and stocked in all good health food and independent stores in England and Wales. Given the reaction of consumers and, indeed, the growing demand for the company’s juice across the UK, we are expecting the future to be even brighter and healthier for AOk Drinks.
Visit: www.aokdrinks.com for more information on antioxidants and how AOk can help you lead a healthier lifestyle!