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Island nutritionist behind ‘solixir’ beverage
New healthy beverage is combination of science and taste
Shop the beverages in Whole Foods Market, and you will find a new drink called solixir — developed by Island nutritionist Susan Kleiner and two of her business partners with Sol Elixirs, which means “elixirs from the sun.”
It all started with an idea for a botanical beverage, envisioned by the nephew of one of Kleiner’s former professors: Scott Lerner, who called Kleiner with a proposal for a business venture. They were joined by herbalist Amanda McQuade Crawford, and solixir sales began nationwide in April 2009. The beverage, which is available in three flavors — Orange Maté, Pomegranate Ginger and Blackberry Chamomile, went from “concept to reality to store shelves” in a year, Kleiner said.
“It was pretty phenomenal,” she noted.
And the three partners have yet to meet. Lerner lives in Chicago, where Sol Elixirs LLC is headquartered; Crawford is in Los Angeles, and Kleiner resides on Mercer Island, where she has managed her own business, High Performance Nutrition, for the past 15 years. The group has communicated via conference calls, video conferencing, cell phones and e-mail. Just this morning, Kleiner said, she had half a dozen e-mail messages from Lerner in her inbox.
“It’s not so different than what I’ve been doing for decades with journalists and editors,” said Kleiner, of not meeting her business partners. “It’s just a whole other level of commitment. The cost to travel to meet for every meeting would have made starting up this company impossible, but we could do it because we didn’t have those travel costs.”
Kleiner drew from 30 years of expertise in the field of nutrition during the process of creating the beverage. She holds a Master of Science and Ph.D. in nutrition from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has authored seven books, including “The Good Mood Diet,” “High Performance Nutrition” and “Power Eating,” and has consulted with food and beverage companies, as well as sports teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, Miami Heat and Cleveland Browns. She has also been published in numerous magazines and other publications.
Kleiner spoke with the Reporter while on a family trip in Walla Walla, Wash.
Describe the process of developing solixir.
We knew that we wanted to do something that — in the scientific, herbal, botanical world — would meet the highest qualifications. We then just brainstormed ... Scott knew he wanted sparkling, and we all agreed. Based on my nutrition knowledge, certain decisions were made; one can should be one serving, regardless of how much was in there.
I knew I didn’t want to go over 50 or 60 calories because that is considered one fruit serving. A beverage shouldn’t have so many calories that it takes away from other foods in the day.
It’s both creative and knowledge, science-based. Amanda came up with initial herbal formulations based on decades of what we think of as science, along with certainly hundreds and thousands of years of the practical use of herbs. We do use the whole herb versus extracts. That’s why we think of it as a whole food. You’re getting all of the beneficial components of that herb.
In the same way, with herbs, if you just extract what we understand currently as the active component, it all works together. So we put together those formulations, and we all did taste-testing. The juices are part of the botanical formula. We had a range of different fruit juices to go with the different formulations.
The taste testing was a riot — shipping the product all over the country. We went through about four rounds before we got to the point when we said, ‘This is it.’ Then I’d invite people over and get as many people — friends and family — to try them out as possible.
What about solixir’s ingredients?
The natural juices that we use come from a company up in Bellingham. While the herbs come from all over, Amanda knows the growers, and knows seasonally where she can purchase the bioactive forms around different parts of the world, and knows that none of them are contaminated, with no genetic manipulation.
Finding the right people and purveyors to work with us was all very exciting. [The manufacturing] is subcontracted, from developing the can, to the actual bottling, and Scott uses the highest quality companies for this process.
No sugar is added; that was a foundational part of this, that we would not add any kind of sugar or sweetener — [the drink] didn’t need it. We call it refreshingly sweet. It is 12 ounces and very low in calories; one-third juice, and two-thirds sparkling water. It really does supply nutritional support and the foundation for all the different systems in your body — we call them awaken, restore and relax.
What is the most rewarding, and challenging, aspect of this business venture?
The most rewarding is to be able to say, this is the bottom line for me. We can’t say anything that isn’t science-based ... As we move forward into new product development, having more input into the new formulations as we move in new directions, my expertise will come a little more into play.
I’ve been in the field for 30 years, and I’ve had ideas for a long time about what I think would be the best product, and now I get to do that, and that probably is most exciting.
The other part is working with people — we’re all on the same page. It’s such an exciting opportunity for me.
The challenge: in today’s world, I’ve done this for decades, worked with people who I’ve never met — the three of us have not met yet. Things moved along so rapidly ... With solixir, we are serious business partners, and I’m an owner of the company, as Amanda is, and Scott is obviously the principal, so it is really a virtual company. In today’s world, you sit down virtually. It’s not a terrible challenge; it’s the way things are today when you start up.
So much of this goes well with what I do in my work with High Performance Nutrition. I’ve always been about nutrition and human performance in the past 12 to 15 years; I’ve focused not only on physical performance, but on mental performance. In the world of sports, mental focus and mental energy is often more than 50 percent of success. Coach Pat Riley in Miami, Fla., had me come down specifically because of my work with the brain and mental focus. It melds so beautifully with what I’ve done over the years. It’s been really fun to now have a beverage to add to that mix.
Kleiner is managing a solixir booth at a CRAVE Summer Party from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight, Aug. 19, at the Teatro ZinZanni in downtown Seattle. The event will feature local vendors and artists, entertainment and education. For more information, go to www.craveparty.com.
For information about Sol Elixirs LLC and High Performance Nutrition, go to www.powereating.com, www.solixir.com or www.goodmooddiet.com.