Will memory-boosting NeuroGum chew into a share of the market?
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Photo Credit: NeuroGum

Gum startup breaks its first barrier on Indiegogo, hoping to get its cognition-booster to the forefront of a diverse energy gum market

Eat. Sleep. Medicate. Repeat.

With the emerging trend to add vitamins, minerals, extracts, and caffeine to the most innocent of shelf stockers, some lagging parts of the consumer market have looked to boost their sales with the extra kick.

In this sense, NeuroGum is nothing new. But its grassroots launch on Indiegogo on September 10 comes seven years after co-creators CEO Kent Yoshimura and CFO Ryan Chen met as students at University of California, San Diego. They tell the story of being frustrated students, pulling studying marathons dependent on soda and energy drinks while others were holding on their Ritalin or Concerta to keep going. Wanting to kick the unhealthy diet habits but perhaps also implicitly surrendering to the dark culture of overnight cram sessions, they wanted a more comfortable way to spark their mental fires.

Within three days, the company’s Indiegogo push reached its goal of $10,000 and is still climbing ($13,306 as of this writing).

The NeuroGum is the latest in a slew of products emerging from the fad of nootropics: a group of somewhat-already-known chemicals that give your brain a surge of alertness, cognition, and depending on what you’re taking, memory. Caffeine and L-theanine (also written without the L) are the staple of this über-mental diet, like baguettes to a Frenchman. Various “stacks” of chemicals you might have seen that one time you actually read the side of your energy drink might also be mixed in. The trend has been particularly acute in Silicon Valley.

But the gum market has caught onto these trends already. VE2 Energy Gum, Vibe Energy, X8 Energy, Java, Jolt, and several others with high-point Scrabble letters in their brand names have been on the shelves for a while. NeuroGum is trying to highlight itself in an open market.

Some taste and green tea behind it

“All other energy gums taste terrible and typically use aspartame,” Yoshimura told Geektime, arguing his new product has been through the wringer to achieve something worth trying. “They also depend solely on caffeine as their primary ingredient while we use L-theanine, the primary compounding green tea that helps mitigate many of caffeine’s side effects.”

Like many of the devotees you might find in nootropics forums, Yoshimura and Chen wanted to avoid the crash and burn after the acceleration and spark. That means no to excess sugars (NeuroGum uses sorbitol) and to get away from amphetamines.

The science behind L-theanine

A few studies that diverge from the medical community’s general consensus assert that theanine has a regulating effect on caffeine. In tandem, the two chemicals have a positive impact on mood, reducing effect on stress and enhancing effect on cognitive performance. It should be noted that some of the studies, while published in peer-reviewed journals like Appetite and Nutritional Neuroscience, include authors affiliated with consumer food companies such as Unilever, including Dr. Eveline De Bruin and Dr. Jane A Rycroft who is connected with the obviously affiliated Lipton Institute for Tea: I can’t make this name up.

Yoshimura and Chen hope that the success of their campaign to raise manufacturing funds will allow them to focus more on their venture. Both are working full-time elsewhere and have been operating in the red on private investments until now.

“Eventually, once we establish ourselves in smaller markets and college campuses, we hope to get larger investments to push out marketing to a broader audience and get NeuroGum out to a broader market space, if not internationally.”

“We hope to push to suppliers of college campus stores and convenience stores to get profit in hopefully six months to a year,” they explained to Geektime.

The pair is hoping that expansion will allow NeuroGum to comfortably grow its product line to include Ginger and New Tropic flavors (get it?). Its particular combo of theanine, caffeine, B6, and B12 is just the first stack it is offering customers.

“We are launching two more flavors and an anxiety-and-stress-reducing L-theanine gum” which won’t include caffeine and may include Vitamin D to function as a mood enhancer, Yoshimura said. “We love the ingredients we have now and hope to challenge the energy market the way Red Bull did with their few products.”

NeuroGum markets itself as “100% gluten-free, kosher, and does not contain any ingredients derived from milk, eggs, soy, or wheat gluten.” The company was founded in 2013 by Yoshimura and Chen and is currently privately funded.
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