"NHJE": A Food Product Love Story
When I meet someone new and they find out I have a doctorate in materials science, they usually assume I’m some type of rocket scientist. When I tell them I founded a caffeinated mint company, they invariably look at me like I’m from another planet (and should probably be building rockets to visit it). But those who have known me my entire life will tell you I would inevitably start a consumer products company…that company pertaining to the food industry is no surprise.
There are plenty of reasons and experiences that have led me here. An overarching theme is that I enjoy discovering needs in society and designing solutions to remedy those needs. ‘Love’ is probably the operative word; I love this process. We all have the power to create new things that make other’s lives better; it is a beautiful gift no one should waste. Throughout my life I’ve designed many different kinds of products intended for many different kinds of people (bicyclists, expectant mothers, pet owners, computer manufacturers, medical professionals, etc.). Food products, while not necessarily a sexy focus for innovation, always held a particularly expansive and attractive breadth of impact: Everyone eats.
“Food products, while not necessarily a sexy focus for innovation, always held a particularly expansive and attractive breadth of impact: Everyone eats.”
Before developing Rally Energy (and our caffeinated mint), I was not happy with what I observed in the food and supplement industry. A scientist at my core, it was honestly both insulting and infuriating. To this day, the industry is saturated with unsubstantiated health claims, misinformation, exaggeration, and Hype. Store shelves are packed with products containing thousands of times the daily recommended intake of various vitamins and minerals, all based on the disproven claim that ‘if a little bit is good for you, then a lot must be great’. Companies left and right, are peddling herbs, oils, and amino acids in their products that have not been shown to produce any positive health effects in randomized, double-blind, placebo control studies (the “Gold Standard” in intervention-based studies). Companies are taking peoples’ money with the unspoken (and false) promise that the more things you find on the ingredients list, the better it is for you…even though these companies know better. As a new father, I felt the classic "I want a better world for my child" feeling.
It’s difficult for me to articulate how aggravating this was for me. These products were competing, surviving, and oftentimes thriving on nothing but Hype. Worse yet, industry expert after industry expert told me that this was simply ‘how it’s done’, and, for Rally products to compete, I’d have to follow suit. That’s when I realized that if I want these dishonest business practices to stop, if I want companies to stop making products that are full of ineffective ingredients and misinformation, if I want companies to make products that are clean, honest, and pure...then I have to do more walking than talking. I started living what eventually became Rally’s mantra: “No hype, just energy”.
“That’s when I realized that if I want these dishonest
business practices to stop…then I have to do
more walking than talking.”
Sometimes you’re your own best case study.
While in college, I began to notice many inconveniences my peers were having that could be addressed with a revolution in the food they ate and drank. I heard fellow students complaining that they wanted a healthier alternative to oversized, sugary energy drinks; something they could always keep in their backpacks and count on to help them stay awake and focused in class. I heard workmates complaining that there wasn’t a convenient and fast-acting source of caffeine that they could discreetly carry around in their suit pants. (It’s not super-professional to crack open and chug a Redbull during a big meeting in the boardroom.) I heard parents complain about how exhausting children can be after a long day at work, but they didn’t want to chug coffee, some energy shot, or take a pill. Quickly, a caffeinated mint made complete sense.
The idea was simple and it resonated with me, so I made some prototypes (just enough to fill a package or two) and tried them out. Little did I know, Rally Energy was forming; it was awesome. It’s story started off with soley me: Rally was a nice boost that worked fast when I regularly drove back to Wisconsin from visiting family in Chicago. Then these mints I was fooling around with started replacing the bulk of my coffee intake throughout the day. ME! Someone who LOVES coffee!
This trend continued as I would routinely be walking between buildings on campus for classes and meetings. Making coffee in the break room in the morning became a hassle, as I was constantly on the go (as so many of us are). Everyone would drink it by the time I got back, it would burn and go stale as it sat all day depleting its’ key ingredient (caffeine!), or if getting to the fresh coffee worked out, I had to worry about coming back later to turn off the machine. ...It just wasn’t convenient. Instead of all of that bother and hassle, I just popped one of my mints for a little boost when I needed it. Don’t get me wrong, I would still drink my cup of coffee in the morning with breakfast. But around 11am I would just take a mint out of my pocket, and I would pop another mint around 2pm after lunch. My friends started calling the mints ‘Rally’ because they literally noticed me jump back to life right away. The name stuck.
“My friends started calling the mints ‘Rally’ because
they literally noticed me jump back to life right away.
The name stuck.”
A turning point: product to movement
Soon, I made the big discovery that there are differences in my and others' caffeine needs. If I want to sit around with a dear friend over a warm cup of joe, that’s one thing. But if I’m just feeling a bit drowsy in the middle of a class or meeting, it is something else entirely. I realized I wasn’t alone in this scenario, and that Rally mints could be a consumer product, available on the shelf for sale.
Making the product so that others could use it was the next step, and that’s when I started looking outward. As mentioned earlier, I did not appreciate the exaggeration and misleading nature of the food / supplement / energy industry at large. I knew it was nonsense; I, and others close to me, had enjoyed the effectiveness of Rally for months without adding any unnecessary ingredients, or me making outrageous claims about it. It was time for someone to take a stand against these dishonest marketing practices. Rally’s mantra, “No hype, just energy”, is more than a slogan. It is an ethos about how a company should produce and sell products; it will swell into a movement.
I could wait around for another company, practicing business ‘the way it’s always been done’, to attempt to service the needs of my friends and I, or I could take matters into my own hands by discovering that I had an amazing product that not only people want, but a product that works! Who am I to keep it from the market? Why should I wait for someone else to start this movement? I started test marketing Rally and forming relationships with a few local convenience stores. In the first few months, a handful of stores were selling out of the 20-unit Displays every week or two. Rally, now, had proof of concept and proof of demand. It led me to officially form the company and that brings us to today, where we’re practicing our mantra in every aspect of how we design, package, market, and sell our products.
“In the first few months, a handful of stores were selling out of the 20-unit Display every week or two.”
Bottom line: Rally pledges to be responsible from beginning to end: formulation, packaging, distributing, and engagement. We solely put functional ingredients into our products. We don’t exaggerate our marketing. Further, we know that there is more to life and business than turning a profit, so we also support our communities and Heroes. We believe companies and the products they produce should posses purity and integrity. Rally mints work, and they taste like they work. Don’t take my word for it; please check us out. Order yours today!
- Matthew B. Starr
Founder, Rally Energy LLC