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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Limelite's Lower-Caffeine Energy Drink

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The crowded energy-drink market is dominated by Red Bull and Pepsi- and Coca-Cola-distributed products like AMP, Rockstar and Monster, but there's still room for smaller upstarts, the Appleton-based T-D Innovations is discovering. Just eight months after the company launched its energy drink, Limelite Premium Fusion, the product has been picked up for distribution at over 1,000 retail locations around the state, including Roundy's, Pick 'n Save, Sendik's, Copps and Open Pantry. The company has plans to expand distribution to Illinois, Minnesota and California.

In a market where products compete to make the most extreme claims, Limelite's hook is its restraint: It has less caffeine than its competition, about 21 mg per serving compared to Red Bull's 80 mg. As other energy drinks come under increased fire for their exorbitant caffeine levels, that may prove a smart strategy.

“We figured that an energy drink with less caffeine was a more universal product, something that won't give you the shakes or the jitters,” said T-D Innovations President T.J. Utschig. “We wanted to be the anti-Red Bull or Monster, which are just loaded to the max with caffeine. We wanted to make something that tasted better, and that was a little bit safer, in our eyes. A person that wants the same energy as those drinks will still get it, but ours comes from B vitamins, not caffeine.”

Limelite certainly tastes better than its competition. It's heavily carbonated but cleaner on the palette, with a more pronounced citrus flavor and little of Red Bull's metallic bitterness. Marketing it as a health drink would be a stretch, since like most energy drinks it's filled with high-fructose corn syrup (58 grams of sugar per 16-ounce can), though the company recently released a sugar-free version. The company is also planning to launch a malt version by Labor Day.

Helping to drive Limelite's fast growth has been Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun, who serves as the face of the product and helped land it distribution in Miller Park, where it is the official energy drink of the team.

“Ryan holds equity in the company, and is involved in a lot of the business decisions, from design changes to bringing on other endorsers or partners,” Utschig said. “He's got a great business mind. Most people forget that he went to school on an academic scholarship, so he's very bright, and he's eager to be a part of the product and to offer suggestions.”
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