· By Darren Portelli
Check Our Delivery Rank Interview: Crazy D’s Sparkling Prebiotic 2023: Simple Botanical Ingredients!
During an insightful interview with Delivery Rank, we at Crazy D's Sparkling Prebiotic Beverage had the opportunity to share the story behind our innovative drink that's stirring up the functional beverage market. Our founder, Darren Portelli, took the stage to articulate the vision and relentless drive that led to the birth of Crazy D's—a soda that's as much about promoting health as it is about tantalizing taste buds.
Darren explained how Crazy D's challenges the long-held belief that sodas are just sugary treats with no real benefits. We're here to turn that notion on its head. Crazy D's isn't just another drink to quench your thirst; it's a carefully formulated prebiotic soda aimed at boosting digestive health. By incorporating natural prebiotic fiber, our goal is to support the flourishing of beneficial gut bacteria and enhance the body's ability to absorb nutrients, marking a significant departure from traditional soda offerings.
The inspiration behind Crazy D's came from what Darren describes as a "migraine-induced epiphany." This moment of clarity arose from his personal commitment to a healthier way of life and a desire to be more engaged with his family. It propelled him on a three-year odyssey to develop a ginger soda that wasn't just delicious but also health-promoting.
In conversation with Delivery Rank, Darren delved into how Crazy D's represents the intersection of taste and wellness. Our journey is characterized by a passion for crafting a beverage that doesn't compromise.
As the founder and CEO of Crazy D's Sparkling Prebiotic Soda, can you share the inspiration behind creating a functional soda focused on digestive health, and how you envisioned it standing out in the market?
Inspiration. Well, firstly, I must clarify that the initial inspiration was not to create a soda focused on digestive health. Instead, the goal was to formulate a soda that would provide an anti-inflammatory reaction. You see, I have a condition known as Permanent Migraine Aura, also referred to as visual snow. In addition, I've dealt with various mental health conditions throughout my life that have worsened at times, though I was unaware of the cause. This was years ago, and I was constantly searching for solutions, experimenting with different approaches such as trying new diets, vitamins, and more.
We've come a long way since then, though there was a long period where I never truly felt like myself. I always believed I should be experiencing life differently each day, knowing that I had the potential for so much more. To enjoy life so much more. However, what transpired was a shift in my focus towards cleaning up my diet and overall health. This transformation occurred during the early days of the Paleo diet around 2013. I found that eliminating added sugar entirely made me feel better, and my cravings for different foods changed.
As the summer months approached, I found myself wanting a drink, a soda, as it was ingrained in our culture—something we always did growing up and when watching movies on Friday nights. Simultaneously, I was craving ginger for the first time in my life. Although we didn't have many health stores at the time, I visited the closest one and bought a premium ginger soda with only about 14 grams of organic cane sugar, significantly less than the 40 grams in a typical ginger ale.
To my surprise, after taking a few sips of this soda over ice, I experienced the same migraine I had as a child. It struck me that the quick reaction to sugar in these beverages was unnatural, unlike the slow digestion that occurs when eating whole foods like apples or blueberries, where the fiber allows for a more gradual release into the body. I realized this rapid sugar influx was causing inflammation, which eventually leads to gut health issues and chronic disease.
Realizing the potential harm of soda, I pondered the idea of creating a drink that could have the opposite effect. A beverage that could counteract the negative impacts of traditional soda and promote well-being. This became my goal, and I started viewing my personal flaws more so as strengths, using my high sensitivity for good in order to create a drink that would prioritize health and provide a positive impact.
Prebiotic fiber is a unique and significant component of your soda. How did you arrive at the decision to emphasize prebiotic fiber in your product, and what challenges did you face in formulating a beverage that not only tastes good but also supports digestive health?
I spent about three years attempting to create a ginger soda with full anti-inflammatory properties. This involved eliminating added sugar and delving into the rich history of sodas where ingredients like real ginger, vanilla and various spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, and others were prevalent. The challenge was to ensure that the soda not only had health benefits but also tasted good. This was during a time when prebiotics were barely known, and the concept of sweetening with vegetables was explored as an alternative to fruit juices, which lack fiber.
During numerous late-night research sessions after work, I discovered certain vegetables, like Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root, contained inulin-like fibers which have a light sweetness but are beneficial for insulin resistance. This exploration eventually led me to yacon root, an obscure yet peculiar ingredient. Utilizing yacon root syrup in the drink yielded fantastic results, though each batch tasted different due to varying qualities.
As I incorporated this ingredient, I noticed a significant improvement in how I felt. Despite facing numerous challenges, such as supply chain issues and even cultivating crops all over Ontario, Canada, I remained dedicated to this unique ingredient. The process involved a steep learning curve, including understanding the science behind prebiotics/prebiotic fiber.
This journey convinced me of the profound impact of digestive health on mental well-being as I personally felt it. Previously dismissing discussions about digestion as unimportant, I now recognize its relevance, particularly concerning chronic diseases and mental health. The market initially lacked competitors as I was all alone, but as awareness grew, we now find ourselves in a crowded space, prompting us to redefine our place in the industry.
Being ahead of the curve presented challenges, but it also allowed us to witness the creation of a new category. It's a unique feeling, and I appreciate your interest in our story.
In the crowded beverage market, how do you differentiate Crazy D's Sparkling Prebiotic Soda, and what strategies have you employed to communicate the health benefits of prebiotic fiber to consumers effectively?
That's correct. Absolutely. Well, you know, originally, I must say that it posed a significant challenge because in the beverage and food industry, timing is crucial in the market. We were considerably ahead of the curve; I launched the first farmers' market late 2016, and at that time, prebiotics were not well-known. The focus was primarily on kombucha, and explaining the significance of prebiotics—encouraging the growth of probiotics and the production of postbiotics—was a challenge. Additionally, our product stood out by avoiding added sugar and artificial sweeteners.
I might have gone off-topic a bit, but for me, it has always been about creating as healthy of a product that I could, devoid of gimmicks. It encompasses overall health, incorporating elements like polyphenols, even if not explicitly listed on the drink. Addressing a major issue in the food system—ultra-processed foods—I strive to use ingredients which are as close to their natural source as possible. For instance, I include actual baobab fruit pulp, turmeric, vanilla bean, camu camu berry and of course, yacon root syrup, which is processed in a very simple and healthy manner, along with real low sugar fruit juices versus concentrates.
Keeping ingredients close to their original form provides more benefits, contrasting with products that boast about minimal added sugar but may still impact gut health negatively. I firmly believe there should be three categories: not good for gut health, maybe kind of good, and good for gut health. Ingredients like added sugars, artificial ingredients like inorganic flavors and non-nutrient sweeteners do not belong in the latter two categories. This approach ensures that my products remain as healthy and authentic as possible. I hope this clarifies.
Given the rising interest in gut health, what trends do you foresee in the functional beverage industry, and how do you plan to adapt and innovate to stay ahead of the curve?
Well, I believe that, ultimately, we're already ahead because we steer clear of gimmicks, added sugar, inorganic flavors and non-nutritive sweeteners. I anticipate that these elements will be scrutinized more in the future and people will desire less sweetness as their palates adjust and the health-conscious movement gains momentum. Some organizations are already highlighting the concerns around non-nutritive sweeteners. We've set a “natural sweetness” standard where the ingredients which add the light sweetness, also provide the fiber (the way nature intended), and now it's a matter of waiting to see how the market reacts.
Of course, I foresee the emergence of more gimmicky trends in the future. For instance, there might be a surge in products boasting about the addition of postbiotics or other elements. While prebiotics inherently offer a holistic benefit that includes prebiotics, cultivating your own probiotics and postbiotics, I'm open to experimentation. Our commitment is to listen and respond to our customers' preferences, adapting to the evolving landscape. We aim to connect with our customer base and remain responsive to their needs.
Looking ahead, what is your vision for the future of Crazy D's Sparkling Prebiotic Soda? Are there any new flavors, formulations, or partnerships on the horizon that you're excited to share with your audience?
I do envision a considerable amount of innovation happening within Crazy Elixirs. Currently, our focus lies in expanding our elixir concentrates. I believe that people are seeking options that are not only suitable for individuals but also great for families. Opening a whole can for a 5 or 6-year-old might not always be practical, and that's where our elixir concentrates come into play. My own kids have been enjoying Crazy Elixirs throughout their lives, making it a great option for portion control. It especially comes in handy for gatherings for young children, ensuring that healthy soda is available without the need for caffeine. Our concentrates are cost-effective and tax-free, making them a fantastic value for consumers.
Right now, the concentrates serve as make-it-at-home kits, ideal for those with SodaStream or similar devices. Whether people want to create their own beverages at home or prepare mocktails and cocktails, these concentrates are versatile. Looking ahead, we anticipate expanding this line, working on developing ways to enhance our communication with customers and deliver what they desire. We're considering updating our e-commerce platform and subscription models to facilitate greater engagement with customers. This approach allows us to gather more feedback, listen to their reactions, and understand their preferences. Overall, our focus is on cultivating a strong relationship with our customers through continuous development and innovation. Afterall, we make this product for them!
To learn more about Crazy D’s history, the functional beverage industry and what we have in store for the future, check out the interview our Founder, Darren Portelli did with DeliveryRank here.