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From secret to sensation, Skratch Labs hydration mix taste test

September 13, 2012

It started out two years ago as a secret.

Well, not entirely. Many pro-cyclists used it; about 40% of the riders in the 2011 USA Pro Challenge drank it. “It” didn’t have a name other than “secret drink mix.” Back then the ingredients were mixed in five gallon paint buckets before they found their way into bottles bearing team and other sports nutrition product labels.

Skratch Labs’ Boulder storefront

It sold by word-of-mouth without any marketing, but eventually to keep up with demand and process orders a website called  secretdrinkmix.com appeared.

In early February of 2012 the founders of the secret drink mix product — Ian MacGregor, Allen Lim, and Aaron Foster, named their operation Skratch Labs, which runs out of a storefront on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. Skratch Labs employed eight people when I met MacGregor in June, 2012.

The philosphy behind Skratch products began with the idea that fresh food is better than any recovery drink. The ingredients for the signature hydration mix are simple: start with fresh fruit and add salt and sugar. Nothing artificial.

Packing orders at Skratch Labs in Boulder

The result is a subtle-flavored drink that supplies nutrients and according to MacGregor empties quickly from the stomach — something crucial for pro-cyclists who drink so much during racing and training. But the good taste helps anyone. “If you have to force yourself to drink it, you won’t drink enough,” MacGregor said.

Taste test

Meeting MacGregor in June reminded me that I drink only water on my recreational rides from Lakewood, Colorado to places like Morrison or Golden. I shared this with him, saying I can’t handle the popular sports drinks full strength; they don’t sit well in my stomach. He handed me some single use Lemons & Limes flavor Skratch hydration mix packages and said, “Try them.”

Following are the results from a taste / performance test conducted with five serious recreational cyclists on a 95 degree Fahrenheit day in late June, with most of the subjects riding about 40 miles to and over Lookout Mountain in Golden.

Sure, an experiment with five isn’t scientific. But one perception was clear across four of the five riders, which included people of both sexes; they liked the taste better than the well-known brands on the market, finding it more palatable and less sugary.

Q1: Did the drink mix improve your ride today?

Responses: 2 yes, 1 no (“nothing could make a hotter-n-hell ride better”), 1 don’t know, 1 maybe.

Comments:

  • “I rode well on Lookout.”
  • “My performance is so variable that it’s hard for me to tell if one product is better than another. I know, however, that sport drinks are much better for me than plain water.”
  • “I didn’t feel as tired, had more energy than I normally would on a very hot day.”

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Q2: Compared to other sports drinks, I like this one:

Responses: 4 better, 1 don’t know (“I drank it so fast I really couldn’t tell”).

Comments:

  • “The taste is good without a lot of sugar.” (two similar comments)
  • “It’s more palatable than Gatorade.” (two similar comments)

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Q3: Would you recommend this drink mix to others or use it again?

Responses: 4 yes, 1 nonsensical answer.

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Allen Lim at the Rollerfest benefit for juniors’ cycling in the Boulder Theatre

Ian MacGregor and Jason Donald (l to r)

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