Energy to go
UW grad student creates mints with a kick.
From the pages of In Business magazine.
Matthew Starr, a UW–Madison grad student in engineering and material science, spent plenty of sleepless nights studying for exams and doing required homework. To stay awake, the 29-year-old drank cup after cup of coffee, but he’d still be dragging the next day.
Recognizing a problem in need of a solution, Starr developed Rally Energy mints, a caffeinated mint packaged in 10-mint “battery”packs that currently retail for about $2.99. The lip balm-sized tube is both resealable and pocket-friendly. “It’s not like a soda that goes flat or coffee that gets cold,” Starr says, “and an energy shot like 5-Hour Energy looks ridiculous in your pocket!”
Rally Energy mints are not just for college students, he says, but for any adult needing an on-demand energy jolt. “People who work third shift or need to stay sharp and alert will often drink coffee but then they have to pee all the time. These mints are refreshing, they’re super compact, won’t spill in your car, stain your clothes [or teeth], and won’t leave you with stinky breath,” he insists.
It is not a pharmaceutical like NoDoz he explains, and the mints contain no excess sugars, fillers, or additives.
Each instant-acting, no-jitter mint contains 60 milligrams of caffeine, half the amount of a typical cup of coffee, and can last up to 90 minutes. By contrast, the caffeine in coffee, he says, can take as long as 45 minutes to reach its full effect.
The company’s slogan, “no hype, just energy,” also describes its philosophy. “We don’t put anything in our mints that doesn’t have a clear, outlined effect,” Starr says, “either on the effectiveness of the caffeine or the mint flavor.”
Nor will the product be marketed to children. “It’s for the 18-plus market. It’s not candy. It’s a mint and children tend to not like peppermint flavoring.” The intense flavor also has a slightly bitter finish to make it even less appealing to kids, he explains. “There was a fine line between making something enjoyable and also satisfying, and one or two mints will produce the effect you want.”
Starr has been developing the product since 2013 and funding and prototyping it himself. The company has received some angel funding and individual investments.
“The plan was to get to market, which has happened, make some mistakes, solve them, and see if customers are responding to the concept,” he says.
The “battery” packs, product labels, and point-of-sale displays are made in Wisconsin while the mints are produced in Indiana. And rather than spending money on marketing right now, Starr is busy observing sales, determining how to improve the product, and proceeding with caution every step of the way.
“You have to stay tempered,” he notes. “Sometimes you can get blinded by the light of success. You can spend a lot of money very quickly to get a product into the market and then find nobody wants it. I did all the [research] myself on a ridiculous shoestring budget.”
Optimistically, he hopes Rally Energy mints will turn a profit in just over a year. By that time, he hopes to have distribution channels in place and a few more college markets on board.
“This is a seven- to 10-year process. I expect it will take quite a while to get to the scale and product offerings I envision, but that was always the plan.”
Rally Energy mints are currently sold at three campus-area locations in Madison — Triangle Market, Market Basket, and MacTaggart’s Market.
Rally Energy mints
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