Today’s consumers are increasingly health conscious and tech savvy, with access to reputable sources of information as they browse products. However, even the most informed consumers are overwhelmed into indecisiveness by the plethora of options available today online or on retail shelves, in coolers, and through the aisles. Heightened interest in wellness has placed immunity, mood, focus, energy, and sleep products under a new spotlight. It should come as no surprise that companies are investing significant capital researching and developing a myriad of natural adaptogens, nootropics, cannabinoids, and botanicals into next generation products. The challenge associated with these natural ingredients is that they often exhibit poor taste, limited bioavailability, slow onset, uncontrolled release kinetics, low product stability, or short shelf-life. To top it off, the cost of such natural ingredients, especially given their low bioavailable forms, is enough to deter the most ambitious of entrepreneurs away from formulating products with them. How then, in an over $42 billion sector 1, does a company develop and distinguish a product amongst ever growing competition?
Nulixir, a nano-biotechnology startup based in Austin, TX, has a solution. Nulixir (a portmanteau of “nutrients” and “elixir”) is disrupting the food and beverage (F&B) industry with patent-protected nanovesicle technologies. The startup strives to resolve the most prevalent issues associated with incorporating functional ingredients into products and optimizing function thereafter. Nulixir develops, licenses, and manufactures patent-protected smart nanocarriers, called nanovesicles, to optimally control functional ingredient performance both before and after consumption. Nulixir’s technology is market-ready, proven to be shelf-stable over twelve months, fits easily into traditionally complex formulations, and expands the range and utility of potential ingredients. Applications of Nulixir’s technology in different beverage segments include the following:
Cannabis: Legal cannabis products, a $9.1 billion market with a CAGR of 26.7%, continue to experience increasingly high demand owed in part to their expansive medicinal and recreational properties. Sales of cannabis-infused beverages increased 40.3% in 20202. However, cannabis actives such as cannabidiol (CBD) have intrinsic molecular properties that pose challenges in product development, such as variable time profiles of effects as well as low bioavailability, stability, and water solubility.
Nulixir’s cannabis extract concentrates are maximized for bioavailability, tuning ingredients such as cannabidiol with an average 10% absorption rate, to over 95% bioavailability*. Nanovesicle technology also drastically decreases the onset time of effects from cannabis derivatives to under a minute. In addition, Nulixir has the capability to mask the flavor of bitter terpenes in cannabis to provide a blank flavor profile, vastly expanding the range of flavor profiles accessible to companies without the added worry of unpleasant tastes from raw ingredients.
Energy: As one of the fastest growing segments in the beverage industry, energy drink sales reached a record $57.4 billion globally in 2020, with North America leading in consumption. It is estimated that over 33% of young adults, primarily men between the ages of 18 to 34 years old, consume energy drinks on a regular basis3. Millennials are a significant target market, with 61% consuming such beverages. However, over 74% of individuals in this group are concerned that energy drinks are unhealthy4.
Caffeine, one of the most popular stimulants with an infamously bitter taste, is a natural nootropic and the main ingredient in many energy drinks. To mask the bitterness of caffeine and similar ingredients, most leading energy drink brands offer products that are laden with artificial sweeteners, flavor-masking agents, and strong flavorings. In addition, consumers must repeatedly fuel up throughout the day to replenish their energy levels.
Nulixir’s energy-stimulant concentrate makes it possible to formulate tasty, healthy energy drinks without sugar or other additives to mask the bitterness. In addition, Nulixir’s technology allows custom formulations that suit each brand’s needs, including tunable release profiles for such ingredients, allowing partners to control when and how active ingredients are felt by the consumer. With the ability to offer sustained release, extended release, delayed release, and stage-wise release profiles, Nulixir can reduce the need for consumers having to constantly refuel throughout the day, even taking it a step further for tailored energy experiences.
Euphorics: Euphoric beverages offer a sensational experience using adaptogens, nootropics, and botanicals, to achieve a state of bliss, comparable to the mood-setting effect of alcohol, but without the drastic disadvantages such as hangovers or liver damage. Young adults today are seeking ready-to-drink (RTD) better-for-you beverage formats with more benign inebriating capabilities. Interestingly, as much as 30% of young adults between the age of 20-30 are also turning towards cannabis-derivatives as an alternative to alcohol. This trend has led to the boom of euphorics as a new go-to category of beverages.
Formulating products that use natural ingredients with euphoric properties comes with its set of challenges. A quick review of existing euphoric beverage brands is immediately revealing. At a high price point, current leading brands in the market provide unpleasant tastes, with little to no mood-setting effect due in part to low bioavailability and slow onset times.
Nulixir’s nanovesicle technology has made it possible to formulate euphoric beverages that taste great, act quick, offer pleasant effects, and reduce the costs of goods sold by controlling and maximizing the bioavailability of raw ingredients*. With the ability to mask even the most bitter tastes associated with adaptogens such as kava, Nulixir circumvents the need for brands to use unhealthy sweeteners and flavor masking agents.
Focus: With record breaking numbers of consumers working from home, the demand for products that boost focus is at an all-time high. The multi-tasking workforce of today recognizes the importance of cognitive health in tandem with physical health for overall wellbeing. Thus, the market for nootropics is in high demand and is expected to reach a $5.32 billion market value by 2026 at a CAGR of 13.2%.5 Like euphorics, nootropics can also be derived from natural botanicals that pose the same challenges regarding unpleasant tastes and low bioavailability.
Nulixir’s nootropic formulation allows quick onset times and tailored release profiles to provide extended periods of focus, all while nourishing the brain with natural nutrients*.
Sleeping Aids: With the trials and tribulations of 2020, consumers experienced high stress levels, anxiety, depression, and overall low morale. The by-product of the reduced mental wellbeing was insomnia, a widespread problem even prior to COVID-19. In 2019, the global sleep economy was valued at about $432 billion. Sleep-aid sections in retail stores have only grown to accommodate the wide range of supplements and products that claim to alleviate problems associated with sleep. As many as three million Americans use melatonin as a sleep aid, partially owed to its widely known natural biological function. A lesser-known fact about this dietary supplement is the low bioavailability of its synthetic form6–a big reason why many users of the supplement wake up shortly after consumption.
Nulixir can maximize the bioavailability of sleep supplements and create an extended-release profile, making ineffective sleep aids a thing of the past.
Innovation in the food and beverage space is forthcoming, driven by consumer trends and demands for cleaner, greener, and healthier products. With companies like Nulixir taking the lead optimizing ingredients to function at their maximum potential, the future of food as we know it today, will know no bounds.
Nulixir owns a portfolio of fourteen different national and international patent applications.
Nulixir develops, manufactures, and licenses intellectual property for smart nanocarriers that enhance the effectiveness of functional ingredients. Nanovesicle technology protects functional ingredients from premature degradation and interaction with physiological environments, while significantly reducing the amount of raw material needed for an effective dose, by increasing the bioavailability of the functional ingredients. Engineered to tune functional ingredient performance before consumption and after, nanovesicles provide a continuous and steady supply of desired ingredients, as opposed to quick spikes and sharp drops in nutrient concentrations in the bloodstream. Control of where encapsulated functional ingredients are released in the digestive tract can avert or reduce potential side effects, such as structural damage. The unique, patented, and customizable nanovesicle structures enable new possibilities for release profiles and applications, solving issues associated with uncontrolled release kinetics, product stability, shelf-life longevity, and unpleasant flavors, all while exclusively using widely accepted ingredients that are designated by the FDA as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) *. Available as either solid powders or liquid concentrate formats, Nulixir’s line of products are non-GMO, vegan, kosher, organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, and allergen-free.
4 Natural Products Insider
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.