Although FIBO 2020 could not be held in April 2020 as planned, six exhibitors received the FIBO INNOVATION & TREND Award presented annually. While the personal award-giving ceremony will still have wait for a while, we cover the creative minds behind the award winners in this series. The winner of the FIBO INNVOATION & TREND Award in the Start-up Category is air up GmbH. This Munich-based beverage company has developed ‘air up’ – the world’s first drink bottle that can flavour water just by smell.
The international expert jury headed by Prof. Dr. Ingo Froböse, university professor for prevention and rehabilitation at the German Sports University Cologne, deems ‘air up’ a “novel drinking experience”. To the experts ‘air up’ stands for a “wide variety of innovative start-ups that pick up on, and re-visit such important themes as sustainability for the fitness industry.”
The idea: taste without calories Lena Jüngst and Tim Jäger already developed the ‘air up’ bottle when studying product design together. “Back then we had read a scientific paper on taste perception and learnt that humans can smell through their mouths and then perceive this retronasally absorbed smell as part of taste. This gave rise to the idea of mimicking taste only with the help of a fragrance and completely without any calories – and this really worked out with our drinking bottle! As part of our Bachelor’s thesis we presented the first prototype to fellow-students, professors, friends and family and the feedback we received was very positive across the board,” explains Lena. By means of replaceable fragrance pods in the bottle tap water is mixed with naturally aromatised air that is perceived as a flavour by our brains. Users do not ingest any unnecessary, in part unhealthy ingredients but only clear water. After obtaining patent protection for the idea the two succeeded in placing the bottle onto the market a few months later in cooperation with the remaining team of ‘air up’ founders, two business experts and one food technology engineer. The start-up is now receiving support from renowned investors.
The implementation: Launch and initial obstacles Proving the biggest milestone for ‘air up’ so far was the successful market launch in Germany and Austria in August 2019. “It went so well that we were sold out within a few weeks,” says Lena describing the situation. At the same time, however, the founder team also had to struggle with the first lows. “We had to realise that many of our customers faced problems with the correct handling of our bottle. As a result, some customers were unable to taste anything and posted negative comments on social media and in the Amazon ratings. Luckily we managed to get to grips with this again fast with the right communication; now we only get few messages from people for whom the bottle allegedly does not work,” she explains.
The details: Focus on health and sustainability Lena Jüngst and her team share the vision that healthy and sustainable beverages do not necessarily have to go hand in hand with abstention and high costs. To the founders ‘air up’ is the most sustainable and healthiest drinks option declaring war on the excessive consumption of sugar and soft drinks. Each fragrance pod makes for five litres of taste in the ‘air up’ bottle. This amounts to roughly 10 plastic bottles of juice spritzer or soft drinks. The fragrance pods are suitable for recycling. “The demand for healthy and sustainable drinks is rising and we are serving this demand with ‘air up’ in an uncompromising and fool-proof way. This is why we are convinced that ‘air up’ will also assert itself in the long term. After being on the market for nine months and posting constantly rising sales figures initial forecasts have proved us right. Our next goal is to also establish ‘air up’ in other countries so that even more people can benefit from this new way of drinking,” stresses Lena.
The costs: Drink healthily and support a social cause The ‘air up’ starter set comprises one drinking bottle and five fragrance pods (sufficient for 25 litres) and costs € 29.95. The sets are available at the company’s webshop, from Amazon, at selected food retailers and drugstores as well as from specialist sports retailers. In cooperation with “Stiftung Deutsche Sporthilfe” (German Sports Foundation) even a proper ‘air up’ charity edition has been launched. For each “Sporthilfe” bottle sold ‘air up’ donates Euro 2 to Deutsche Sporthilfe, with the aim of supporting top athletes.
The future: The new way of drinking With its slogan #denkneutrinkneu (think anew drink afresh) ‘air up’ wants to make people re-think. Lena explains: “We believe that today’s problems require new thinking. We have to come up with creative solutions for climate change and health that do not spoil fun in life nevertheless. This is our motivation.” With ‘air up’ Lena and her team want to revolutionise the beverage market and also offer an uncompromisingly healthy alternative on an international scale that is even healthier and lower priced. There is a good chance we will soon find bottles made by this German start-up in every corner of the globe.