MIAMI — Caffeine remains the most desired functional ingredient among consumers, pushing the energy drink category up 16% over the past year, according to Nielsen data. However, a quarter of consumers have limited intake of energy drinks based on concerns about artificial preservatives and flavors, signaling a strong opportunity for natural brands such as Machu Picchu Energy.
Set to debut early next year, Machu Picchu Energy was founded by Bernardo Paiva, a Brazilian entrepreneur and longtime executive at global beverage companies including Ambev and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The brand’s “Feel good. Do good” tagline reflects the products’ functional and emotional benefits and social mission.
The beverages, formulated with organic ingredients including green coffee extract, Peruvian maca and B vitamins, were developed to deliver sustained energy, while offering a cleaner take on the familiar taste profile popularized by mainstream brands, which the company described as a “sweet tart medicinal cherry.” Machu Picchu Energy uses no preservatives, which, along with synthetic caffeine, contribute to metallic or off tastes in conventional energy drinks, said Daniel Scharff, chief executive officer. Flavors include classic, pineapple mango, zero-sugar pineapple blueberry and zero-sugar ginger peach.
“Even if you don’t care that it’s organic and natural and doesn’t have preservatives, it just tastes better than what’s out there,” said Mr. Scharff, a consumer products veteran who mostly recently led strategy, analytics and insights at Eat Just, Inc. He is also the founder of Startup CPG, an organization dedicated to supporting early-stage entrepreneurs by providing free resources, services and networking opportunities.
The company also is launching low-calorie energy seltzers, which contain a third of the caffeine and are positioned as a mid-day refreshment with a light boost. Featuring lemon lime and blood orange flavors, the products may draw new users to the category while creating additional occasions for existing energy drinkers, Mr. Paiva said. Mr. Scharff noted more than half of energy drink shoppers also choose lower-caffeine alternatives such as tea or soda.
“There’s nothing on the market like it,” Mr. Scharff said. “There are very bland caffeine waters, but nothing that would appeal to people looking for something that’s delicious and refreshing but also has an energy kick to it.”
Driven by dual passions for outdoor adventures and helping children in need, Mr. Paiva launched the business to support various organizations while inspiring consumers to connect with nature. Machu Picchu Energy supports groups such as Favela Radical and Alto Peru, which provide learning and development opportunities, community and outdoor activities for children in urban slums in South America. The company is a founding member and financial supporter of the 2030 Cultural Pact, a partnership with UNESCO in Peru to preserve cultural sites, including the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
Additionally, the team has established a flagship program teaching socially conscious entrepreneurship to students in underserved communities. The company kicked off the Bev-Launch Entrepreneurship Simulator at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, covering topics including branding, formulation and sales strategy.
Machu Picchu Energy plans to partner with Feel Good Do Good Ambassadors, including Peruvian-American explorer and mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, as well as other socially minded outdoor athletes, to build brand awareness. The marketing strategy is a departure from the extreme sports and sex appeal often associated with the energy category, Mr. Paiva said.
“The outdoor platform is designed to be more inclusive, to attract more people,” he said. “We are trying to convey a more aspirational and accessible image.”
Machu Picchu's organic energy drinks, which will start shipping in March, already have been authorized at Erewhon, Central Market (H-E-B), and Gopuff. They also were selected for KeHE's Next Generation Innovation Showcase. The products also will be sold online at machupicchu.energy.