Recently I’ve been testing some samples of a new sports drink called Active Root, which is made right here in my adopted home of Edinburgh. I’d heard about Active Root through various outlets but had never come across a sample, so I was pleased to give it a go. I absolutely LOVE anything ginger, including when I’m out running, so it seemed like the product would be perfect for me. I wasn’t wrong and I’ve really enjoyed drinking it on long and short runs, and even for tackling a hangover. It’s zingy and refreshing without being too sweet, and tastes great even after six hours on the trail.
I was really keen to support this new Scottish business, so I asked the founder of Active Root, George Ashley, if he would answer some questions about his products so that I could say a bit more than “This Tastes Awesome!”. Read on to learn about what makes Active Root special, where you can buy it, and what the next steps are for the team…
Can you tell us a bit about Active Root – what is it and what does it do? What makes it different from other sports drinks?
Active Root is the first natural, ginger based sports drink. It is designed to help avoid and alleviate stomach discomfort and nausea before, during and after exercise. It also tastes pretty good! There is a whole host of data from peer reviewed scientific journals to our own investigations to suggest ginger calms the stomach and decreases nausea. This forms the basis of what makes Active Root different from other sports drinks.
Where did the idea to make a ginger sports drink come from? Why choose ginger?
My business partner Will and I were sat in a pub in Edinburgh in early 2013. His mother used to give him ginger beer as a child when he had an upset stomach. Both of us had experienced stomach issues before and after long runs and bike rides. After a few more beers and discussion, we realised that this could form the basis of a business.
How did you get from an initial idea to prototype? How much testing did you do?
For the first 9 months we attempted to fuse a sports drink recipe with a ginger beer recipe with little success. Our ‘lab’ was my kitchen using a blender and some simple equipment. I have a background in bench science so that came in handy. We experimented with different ingredients, concentrations and production methods most Saturdays throughout the summer of 2013, and eventually, we came up with something both of us would drink!
In 2014, Huw joined the team via a mutual friend and Active Root formed the basis of his Master’s project at University in Edinburgh. We compared the stomach settling qualities of Active Root against another sports drink (with no ginger) and water. We had 40 volunteers for the study, involving a series of 5k races and a semi-quantitative questionnaire. The results suggested that Active Root decreases gastric issues by 40% compared to the other two drinks. In 2017, we have a further study planned, in collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University.
Active Root is now made by a third party manufacturer so all necessary quality and lab checks are conducted in-house. It’s a long way from my old kitchen in Marchmont!
What was the biggest challenge in production?
In 2015, and still pre-trading, we decided to move from a liquid product to a dissoluble powder. This was not only to make Active Root a viable business from a financial perspective, but also to give the consumer more flexibility with Active Root in terms of where they want to use the product. That could be on their bike, in their rucksack or in the cup holder whilst down the gym.
The biggest challenge was converting our recipe into a viable powder form. However, we have a great manufacturing partner in the north of the UK who have been very helpful in the whole process.
What has been your favourite moment of the Active Root journey so far?
There has been a few but probably seeing Active Root on the shelves for the first time in shops such as the Apple Pharmacy and Run and Become in Edinburgh. Seeing that really brought it all home for me.
Is Active Root a full time job now, or do you balance it with other commitments?
Will and myself have other roles, which provide funding for the company, but we have two full time people. It’s an unconventional setup but it currently works for us.
Who else is on the team and what do they do? Are you all runners?
As well as Will and myself, we have Huw who is our main full time person, and backbone of the company, as well as one other who is a little shy! Everyone is critical to the team. We are all runners; I am mainly a XC and road runner, Huw is an orienteer by trade, and Will is our expert triathlete and Ironman.
If you could see any athlete drinking Active Root, who could it be?
Primarily runners, cyclists and anyone into endurance sports. However, Active Root can be used by anyone who likes ginger and wants to balance their system throughout exercise. Gym goers, hill walkers, footballer and even golfers!
If you are asking about one particular individual, it would probably have to be Joe Root (the English cricketer) for obvious reasons! If the customer feels so inclined, it also makes a great mixer and an even better hangover
cure! [Editor’s Note: Can confirm – alleviated most red wine hangover symptoms in our extensive in house trials]
Any plans to sponsor any athletes or events?
Yes, we are the official hydration partner of Spartan Races in the UK for 2017. This is major platform for us to bring Active Root to as many people as possible across the UK. Spartan are a great partner and have been extremely helpful in promoting us and helping us develop.
In March 2017 we have a trade stand at the Scottish Cycling, Running and Outdoor Pursuits Show at the SECC in Glasgow. This is the largest show of its kind in Scotland and provides Active Root with the opportunity to engage with around 10,000 active folk to see what they think of our product. It also gives them an opportunity to buy some!
We are involved with other, more small scale events this year as well and I would recommend anyone to check out www.activeroot.co.uk to find out more regarding where we will be this year.
Any plans for any other ginger products? Please say yes – I would love a ginger gel!
A second flavour is in development and all will be revealed in due course. As for a ginger gel, that is an idea that has been on the white board in the office for a while but we’ve made no putative steps towards it yet.
Where can we buy Active Root?
Active Root is currently available to buy on our site here at http://www.activeroot.co.uk/store and we are also available in store and online at Run and Become Edinburgh (http://www.runandbecome.com/shop-online) and in store at the Apple Pharmacy in Edinburgh (http://www.applepharmacy.co.uk/).