BikeBiz speaks with the brand founder on Nuun's origins and the difference between energy and hydration...

Nuun’s Tim Moxley on flavour, sickly sports drinks and the UK market

If you visited Madison’s iceBike* you will have seen Madison’s new brand signing Nuun first hand, but chances are you’ll have heard of or tried the electrolyte enhanced drink tabs before then.

Nuun is firmly established in overseas markets, predominantly the US, where it is the market leader in its field. Why? Founder Tim Moxley explains: “Nuun is bigger in the US, but it is a bigger market. And there aren’t many competitors in the US – whereas in the UK there are. Added to that, they think about hydration more in the US – we’re big in all kinds of markets like cycling, golf and even with diabetics. In the UK it’s kind of at the nerdier end of the market.”

Nuun joined the Madison distribution powerhouse just before Christmas. Moxley is straightforward about the reasons why: “We’re obviously looking to grow Nuun up in the UK, but we are a small company and stores don’t want to deal with that many companies. They didn’t want to open another account just to deal with us, despite often liking the product.”

Moxely himself hails from the UK but was based in the US when he developed Nuun. At a stint in a business school in the States one of his class projects centred on sports hydration. A few years later, he found that the market hadn’t moved on – “which I thought was ridiculous, so it started from there”.

Moxley’s problem with the existing state of the market then, was largely based on products that he simply couldn’t stomach.

“I got fed up with having a big bottle of sticky stuff. I didn’t want sugar – as a cyclist you want fluid and energy – but these are two very clear and separate needs. You need different hydration if it’s a hot or a cold day, but it’s still the same distance so you need the same calories. There just wasn’t a good solution.

“If you consume too many calories you get fat and your body starts to reject it and you feel sick. You end up having to wash sports drinks down with water and you end up diluting the effect.

“When it comes to calories, you can get them anywhere – like from a Snickers or Mars bar in a petrol station.”

Flavour was also an issue, he explains: “A lot of sports drinks taste too strong for me and you end up diluting them and then that dilutes the effect. In terms of taste, especially when at rest, people are programmed to like bigger and sweeter tastes – with all the calories that brings. But when you’re on the go that lighter taste becomes more appealing.

“It has lost us some friends because the flavours aren’t so big and sweet – that’s why kids tend not to love them.”

And then there was the issue of portability – no small factor when you’re on a bike: “It was either a liquid, which you can run out of, or it’s powder, which isn’t the most portable thing in the world.

“I always said, I don’t care how good your sports drink is, if your tub is stuck under your kitchen sink then it’s no good when you’re out on your bike ride.”

Nuun bottles hold 12 tabs and are small and light enough to slip into any cyclist’s gear on the go. That goes for those riding to work too: “The commuter market in this country is really strong. When workers are dehydrated it doesn’t help them think at work – but they don’t need the calories so much…it’s a product that works across all levels of cycling.

Now firmly based in the UK himself, the time is right for Nuun to ramp it up here, says Moxley: “We’re really looking to go after it. It’s a great product, a great idea and more people should be using it. We’ve got a wide range of flavours as people know what they like and we find that when we put it in front of people and they try it, then they like it.”

Madison: 01908 326000

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