Ginger All The Way | Active Root Interview.

Pete caught up the the guys from Active Root at the DMBinS conference in Aviemore in November to chat ginger and staying fuelled on the bike.

The sports energy market is dominated by names like High5 and Science in Sport, so Active Root took a slightly different approach to the sports drink. Pete chatted to the guys to see where the ginger idea came from.

Who makes up Active Root and what do they do?

Active Root is made up of George Ashley and Will Townsend, the co-founders, and Huw Stradling who joined 1 year later. George has a background in molecular biology and business development contrasting with Will’s experience in design and web development. Huw is a sports scientist.

How did Active Root come about?

Active Root started as an idea in a pub garden in Edinburgh, one Friday night in 2013 as the result of a conversation between Will and George. Will’s mother used to give him a ginger beer as children when he had an upset stomach. He had the idea of creating a ginger based sports drink to help avoid and alleviate stomach discomfort and nausea.

A week later we bought a blender and some ginger and started the preliminary development of a sports drink with a real difference. It took around 9 months to create the first version of Active Root.

What’s your background in cycling (other sports)?

George is primarily a runner, but has some limited mountain biking experience. The real cyclist in the team is Will. He is a very keen competitive road cyclist and triathlete. We recognised that Active Root has a real application for mountain bikers, as it is such a physical sport with a large endurance element.

Why a sports drink?

We felt there was a need in the biking and running areas to help people who experience nausea and stomach anxiety before, during and after their activity. At Active Root, we believe we have a product that can fulfil that need that other sports drinks cannot.

Why ginger?

From history and recent peer-reviewed scientific journals, there is large body of evidence that heavily suggests that ginger root extract actively helps the stomach with discomfort. We wanted to investigate this area ourselves. So for Huw’s master’s project in 2014, we compared Active Root to two other drinks.

This trial consisted of 40 runners taking part in a series of 5K races, and was measured by a semi-quantitative questionnaire. The result suggested that Active Root decreased nausea in the runners by 40% before and after the run, compared to the other two drinks. Collectively, this data gave us the confidence to get Active Root to market.

We are planning a more extensive study with Edinburgh Napier University to include bikers, and how Active Root can help them even more.

How did you choose where to get the product made?

Our manufacturer is based in the North of England. They are very friendly and dependable company of a medium size who have been extremely helpful with developing and manufacturing the product. These factors made them a great partner for Active Root.

What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?

It’s taken 3 years to get to this stage and we’ve have sacrificed a lot of weekends and evenings as well as personal finances. However, this is par the course of setting up and establishing a new business.

Neither of us have done this before so it’s been a lot to learn. Luckily, we have complementary skill sets and are good friends. Both of these things matter. Huw is working full time for Active Root is an invaluable member of the team.

Did any of you have day jobs that you had to give up?

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The nature of the business is such that some of us have kept our day jobs for now at least. Rent and bills do not pay themselves! Huw is working full time for the business.

Are you working alongside to make ends meet?

Yes, the two co-founders have had to maintain their jobs to provide the finance for the product development and branding.

How make or break is the company for you?

Both of us have always wanted to start and growth our own company so our passion is key. In terms of personal goals and genuinely helping active people, it’s pretty make or break.

How did you learn what you needed to know to get your own company off the ground and the product in hand?

How much time to you have! I worked for a start-up for 5 years so I know what needed to be done from a general business sense. Will’s skill set in branding and web development has saved us a lot of money!

On top to this we have been luckily enough to have friends and family who have provided their time and expertise in specific areas to help us. Without their help, we would not have got to where we are now in 3 years.

How many prototypes/samples did you have before getting to the final product?

Many, it took 9 months to develop the first liquid product and then another year to many people to try it at various events across central Scotland. In 2015 we changed Active Root into a dissoluble powder product to make it commercially viable and more versatile for different sports. For example, filling your ride bottle with Active Root on your bike and taking spare sachets in your rucksack for mountain biking.

Beyond the development of prototypes, what form did your testing take?

From a mountain biking perspective, we held a sample stand at an evening talk at Glentress in 2015. This gave at least 40 competitive bikers the chance to try the drink. The feedback was extremely positive. From a running perspective, we had sample stands at events such as the Callender 10K, Haddington 10K and the Calderglen trial races in 2015.

Where next for Active Root? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?

We were massively encouraged after the success of Active Root’s Kickstarter campaign in 2016. We aim to grow primarily through on-lines and other e-commerce platforms. Additionally, we hope to be in leading running and cycling retail outlets in the coming months.

The Active Root team will regularly be present a various biking and running weekend events throughout 2017. Check when and where at!

Anybody to thank at this point in the Active Root journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?

Ginny, Will’s wife, has been extremely supportive and patience with us working late at his place on numerous occasions and using their flat as a base. All three of us have friends (to many to list specifically here!) have helped us out and they know who they are. We owe them a lot! Huw’s friend in particular were invaluable in the making of the Kickstarter film.

Pete has some Active Root on test, so look out for an in-depth review in 2017.

Head over to Active Root’s site for full details, and visit their Kickstarter if you want to give them an upward shove.