In an increasingly digital and connected world, consumers are constantly plugged in and engaged. While this has boosted connectivity, in many cases, it has also led to challenges in keeping focus and raised stress levels. At the same time, there is a greater awareness of the potential of nutrition to enhance whole body wellness—body and mind. What could a solution look like that took the best of ingredient science and delivered it in a convenient format? Rune Rønhave Laursen, the CEO and founder of Clutch Cognition, sought to put this connection into action. After working for more than a decade in nutrition and biotechnology, he was intrigued by myriad ingredients with benefits to cognitive wellness that had solid scientific substantiation. Over several years, he put his ‘biohacking’ expertise to work to yield a new solution.
Tune in to hear more about:
- Why grounding product development in science, not just consumer interest, yields a solution with a longer-tail opportunity.
- The type of ingredients fuelling Clutch Cognition, and the potential for synergistic effects.
- Market reaction and global interest in solutions for focus and mental wellness.
- Expected growth for the company in the years ahead.
Rune Rønhave Laursen
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Vitafoods Insights 00:05
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Heather Granato, Vice President of content.
The pandemic has had an effect on consumers around the globe, physically, mentally and emotionally. It certainly accelerated trends including the desire to have greater focus. As we've all been working from home, we're looking for new solutions to keep us mentally focused, but not overly stimulated. Clutch cognition just released a next level functional drink, powered by plants and based on science that's really designed to take functional beverages and nutrition for the brain to the next level. I took time to speak with Rune Laursen, the CEO and founder of the company. He's a humble molecular biologist who is working to make the world a better, healthier place, using his nutrition and biohacking expertise. I spoke with Rune and we started out our discussion with a little bit of background on how he's used his own interest in nutrition, biotech, and the human body to take things to the next level.
I have a degree in molecular biology. And for the past 10 years, I've been working on developing functional nutrition, either on an ingredient side or the finished product side. Yes, way back, I actually thought that I'd be headed into a career in pharma, but along the way, I thought that nutrition and nutraceuticals, in particular, were actually more interesting. So I sort of pivoted in that direction and stuck to it ever since. And four years ago, I thought it was about time to create a business and eco-nutritional traditional concept on my own, or at least sparked by my own initiative, together with some people that I share value values and beliefs with.
And I guess that really has developed now into Clutch cognition. So tell me a little bit about what drove that interest in developing a product that is really designed for cognitive wellness, but performance enhancement.
So the inspiration in large part came from the person with obvious epiphany that people from throughout the world seem interested in actually drinking something that will make them perform better mentally, sedentary occasions in mind, you see a lot of people drinking stuff like energy drinks, and coffee, and at offices, in eSports settings, student environments, a lot of different places. And the only products that are on the market currently are all caffeine based. And found that a little bit ironic, given that caffeine is perhaps not the holy grail of functional nutrition, when you think about increasing your mental capacity throughout the day, short kick in the butt, and then there is a crash effect that when we think about it, one day, consumers can hardly afford to crash at any point during the day. So we knew that we could essentially make something more befitting of the modern day consumer. And that was the idea, to help people use nutrition to be their best self in this context, and at the same time, actually tried to provide them with some nutrients that are actually healthy for the body as well, because we think that, it seems that, many people, they want that cognitive effect, and they're willing to even get it at the cost of some health in a sense that they're willing to ingest something unhealthy. But if you could, at the same time, provide something that's healthy, then that would obviously be much better. So that was the inspiration and the scope of what we started those four years ago.
Fantastic. And while you're talking a lot about consumer needs and their desires, at the same time, when you and I have spoken, you were really focusing your goal on building a product that was very science dictated, not simply what is the consumer market looking for. Help me understand that goal of really grounding in science.
Yeah, I think that if we just ask people what they wanted, we would have ended up with a concept that was markedly different from what we actually ended up with just using science as the compass, and also worked as large corporates in a great role as a product developer. But at the end of the day, there'll almost always be someone with commercial head on interfering with that direction, right? So now having created our own company, purely science driven, we finally had the mandates to keep it strictly scientific and put stuff like functionality and health over more conventional topics like taste and price, and similiarities. Because let's face it, a lot of consumers, they oftentimes go with what's familiar, but we thought, how are we going to do it differently?
How long have you been exploring the science and the formulation of this product and some of the unique ingredients?
Aside from the background that we have, as a founding team, it took around three years to actually develop the concept from idea to final prototype, and the majority of that time of development was spent looking at technical evidence on ingredient level. So it's, it's been part of the process. And also, we have a patent application to show for it. And if you look through the ingredient list, you also find that these are not becoming ingredients. We tried to create something from the bottom up and takes time.
It does indeed. So tell me about a few of the ingredients. What are things that I'd be finding, if I were looking at the ingredient label?
Exciting ingredients like Sage extracts, and green oat extract, dietary fibre from beans, a patented sugar molecule that's actually, despite having the label sugar, it's digested so slowly that it actually stabilises your blood sugar, and in that sense, it's actually good nutrition, considered healthier. It seems we actually have diabetics using our products, despite the fact that it contains sugar. But then we also have a green tea extract, which might, from the sound of it not sound very unique, but this particular green tea extract that we use, that's actually have been stripped of caffeine, and concentrated in other contents like L-theanine, which we find is more beneficial for our consumers at least.
Very exciting. And certainly there's a lot of interesting research on those ingredients in terms of how they can benefit stress levels or anxiety and really helping that mental focus. Have you found that they work synergistically together?
Obviously, once we grow in size, and we get the finances for routine to explore that deeper the cocktail effect of those ingredients. But currently, it's more just use cases, and we do find that they really do work very well together.
Well, with that kind of positive effect that you're hearing about, So is that the reaction that you're seeing in the broader market?
It is. Once people realise what the product is, what the concept is all about: providing a stabilising effect rather than what with most consumers are familiar with from energy drinks, which is very short lived surge, and they look for that stability, they actually do recognise it and appreciate it. So that's very reassuring for us.
I'm sure. When you're talking with potential distributors or customers, what are some of the major questions that you're addressing?
The biggest point is to try to explain the concept because it's so different and so novel. We're also trying to, as I mentioned a little bit about earlier, trying to, basically fight the stigma that nutrition out of beverages is for definition, bad for you, whether it's speaking with consumers, or distributors try to make people understand that the fact that our product has calories in it, it's not this really bad thing. We actually try to offer some good micronutrients, but it's a very complex product, a lot of different questions all the time, but those would probably be the main ones trying to explain the concept in detail.
Okay. Yes and certainly, you know, when you think about an energy beverage, this is very different than that in terms of what you're trying to accomplish and really nourishing a consumers’ body and their mind.
Yeah, exactly. There are so many preconceptions around what a beverage in a can is. We're trying to change that basically. But it's a … it's a process.
So what is your growth plan? Where do you see this business in three to five years?
We did all that effort to try to create a world's first World News. So, it needs to get out there and live. So, we want to spread it as much as possible. And I'll say within three to five years, I would be hugely disappointed if we were not pressing for the entire EU and also as soon as possible, we do want to enter our concept into the American and the Asian market. We think it'd be really good fit for those markets, but there'll probably be a matter of finding the right partners, distributors, license takers potentially, because we are just a startup; it's only just beginning now, so we only have so much time between right? but the concept as such can grow quicker than we can as a company, I believe.
Wonderful. Any final thoughts you might want to share? I'd love anything you could offer to other companies that might be looking at this idea of where's the science taking me and how does that fulfil consumer needs rather than just looking at a consumer desire?
In a crowded market, it is really about creating something that stands out rather than creating another YouTube product. And I think if you're passionate enough about designs, I think you should let that shine through because hopefully, in the end, the consumer will recognise that and appreciate that.
Fantastic. Well Rune, thank you again for joining me, certainly was a pleasure to be having this conversation with you.
And to our listening audience. Thank you again for joining us for this Vitafoods Insights podcast. We'll be back and talking with you again soon.