Interview - James Bruce - StrangeLove
Energy drink fans are becoming spoilt for choice. Way out of the league of all the run-of-the-mill cans lining supermarket shelves is a new player, StrangeLove Organic Energy Elixir. Made from carefully selected organic ingredients and packing an irresistible ginger punch, it’s equally at home in the hands of hipsters, health nuts and high-livin’ good timers. We spoke with James Bruce, self-confessed Magnificent Supreme Leader Descended from Heaven about his gift to energy loving consumers everywhere!
FFW: What inspired you to create an energy drink?
STRANGELOVE: We were living and working (as professional sunbakers) in Byron Bay when – during a science experiment gone wrong – we were exposed to Yerba Mate tea. The energy – or caffeine – from the tea is excellent – sustained, smooth and invigorating – but unfortunately the tea itself tastes like tepid bilge-water.
After looking around we realised that all other 'energy drinks' required one to like speedway racing and silicone, um, stuff. So we decided to make an elixir for a more discerning audience, an audience that cared about taste, quality organic produce and great packaging.
FFW: What makes StrangeLove Organic Energy Elixir different from other energy drinks?
FFW: Should your product be positioned as a premium ginger beer or as an energy drink, or both?
STRANGELOVE: It depends on the channel.
In the premium grocery, organic grocery and health food channel people love the green tea and yerba mate. It's a great selling point and excellent point of difference.
In the food-service and bar channel people buy it because we made the best ginger beer you can get. This wasn't something we even necessarily set out to do. I think it was more that in our product development stage we sought out the best suppliers and never compromised on cost or quality, even when we probably should have.
At the end of the day we ended up with a drink that was expensive to make, but you get what you pay for and now we wouldn't have it any other way.
FFW: What are the flavours that go into your delicious drink?
STRANGELOVE: We used two types of ginger – Asian and Australian – to achieve a really nice balance of heat (chest feel) and spice (mouth feel).
To cut through we used the juice of organic lemons from Argentina. They give the drink a great tang and mouth feel, letting the flavours stick around on the palate for a really nice after-party.
For spice and complexity – and to enhance the natural earthy quality of the drink - we used organic cinnamon.
We also chose raw, unrefined, organic sugar – to bring it all together and make it sing.
FFW: Do consumers experience an energy ‘buzz’ from Organic Energy Elixir?
STRANGELOVE: The drink contains the equivalent to about half a cup of espresso. That said, not all energy is created equal, so it is hard to compare, even to coffee.
Because the caffeine – sourced from green tea and yerba mate – is naturally occurring, it comes 'surrounded' by all the compounds the body needs to assimilate it; bioflavonoids and what not. As a result, the energy is subtle and sustained and pleasant – not dissimilar to drinking a few cups of green tea.
FFW: How does it go as a mixer for cocktails?
STRANGELOVE: We dedicated thousands of hours thoroughly and rigorously testing our drink for use in cocktails. After making over 10,000 drinks we returned to the same conclusion we reached after the first one. It works great. We had to make sure though. Safety first.
The drink is currently available in some of the best bars in Sydney and we have a range of cocktails developed by some of the leading mixologists (i.e. bartenders that don't like to be called bartenders) in the country. All these are available on our website or can be provided by us directly.
Our favourite is simple: Spiced Rum, StrangeLove, Lime, Ice, Sprig of Mint. Rinse. Repeat.
FFW: What would you say is the personality of your brand and beverage?
STRANGELOVE: Definitely not normal. Eccentric. In our time on the planet we have observed that brands either treat consumers like idiots, give no thought to aesthetics or are too scared to be themselves. We are not for everyone and that is OK.
Read the label. You'll see and then you can decide.
FFW: Who is your main target audience?
STRANGELOVE: Bipods with money. Highly intelligent marsupials a close second.
FFW: Do you provide any supporting materials, point of sale matter or other information to retailers?
STRANGELOVE: Yes. We have a range of material such as posters, coasters, 4-packs carriers, playing cards, drinking straws, bottle openers, etc. We have even helped people redo their menus and provided one-off branded posters for events.
We also are very active on social media and support our venues by promoting their events or specials.
FFW: Have you received much feedback yet from retailers and consumers?
STRANGELOVE: Yes. The single most heard line, believe it or not, is “this tastes like the ginger beer my Grandma used to make'.
FFW: What kinds of foodservice businesses are stocking and serving Organic Energy Elixir?
STRANGELOVE: We are in a range of great cafes, bars and restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne. They range from high end 'hatted' venues to edgy, lo-fi hipster dives. We are comfortable anywhere you can buy great stuff.
Sydney – The Grounds of Alexandria, Billy Kwong's, Lobo Plantation, The Boathouse at Palmbeach, Gardel's Bar, Lox, Stock n Barrel.
Melbourne – Mamasita, Huxtaburger, SHU restaurant, SUPERRANDOM, Ziggy's.
FFW: What are some interesting virtues of Organic Energy Elixir that you want your customers and consumers to be aware of?
- Australian owned and made
- Premium packaging
- Sophisticated flavour profile
- Quality, real ingredients (and lots of them)
FFW: We noted that you originally created 22 different products! How did you nail it down to just one???
STRANGELOVE: Lack of money.
FFW: Do you have any massive goals for StrangeLove?
STRANGELOVE: We have a new range coming out this summer. Let's just say we are planning to push existing flavour paradigms to their limit and deliver the end-consumer something more exciting and challenging. They are ready and they deserve it.
After that we are going to sell out to Kirin like everyone else, buy an island and create a cult based on Spirulina smoothies and skinny dipping.
FFW: Who would be a dream ambassador for Organic Energy Elixir and why?
STRANGELOVE: Bill Murray. Because Bill Murray.