Sober Up is touted to be Malaysia’s first hard candy that reduces typical hangover symptoms of headache, nausea and fatigue.
Its functional ingredients is a patented French Oak Wood Extract (commercial name: Robuvit) produced by Horphag Research in France.
It was launched in Malaysia earlier in September, through an online alcohol retailer (Boozeat) and 1,470 7-Eleven convenience stores.
According to Rommel Irwan, director at Berjaya Pharmacy Distribution Sdn Bhd, the firm has received interest from three pharmacy chains in Malaysia for the product, and hopes to enter 1,200 to 1,500 retail pharmacies by December. Malaysia has about 4,000 retail pharmacies.
With a background as a retail pharmacist, Irwan told FoodNavigator-Asia he had seen growing interest for an anti-hangover product in the local market.
“People come in and say they have a bad hangover, or they are drinking on that day but have a big meeting the next day and ask pharmacists to recommend products to them.”
Launching the product into the pharmacy channel was a good way to educate consumers on the risk of alcohol consumption, he added.
“We hope to promote responsible drinking, so we formulated Sober Up to help people who drink for leisure, and ensure they are still productive the next day.”
Irwan said there was a gap in Malaysia for functional candies in the hangover space. He said South Korea is a huge industry worth about US$210m, and growing 15% annually since 2016, mostly contributed by its strong drinking culture.
Besides pharmacies, Irwan told us there are plans to distribute into supermarket and grocery retailers, as well as pubs and restaurants.
Food service proved the most challenging channel for the firm as “these food service places tend not to retail any consumer-packaged goods.”
Science behind it
In a recent study published in June in the Minerva Cardioangiologica journal, Robuvit supplementation resulted in improved fatigue, thirst, headache, muscle aches and body pain scores after 24 hours, compared to the control group. Gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting and stomach pain were also significantly improved, as well as improved energy and mood.
In another study published in the Minerva Cardioangiologica journal in 2014, robuvit supplement indicate a significant protective effect on liver-injury, mediated by its anti-inflammatory activity.
Irwan said it took about one year of R&D to formulate the product.
Irwan explained while there are many delivery formats such as capsule, tablets or beverages, the firm chose candy because they wanted the product to be ‘fun, delicious and convenient’.
On of the key challenges in the R&D process was flavour.
The active ingredient Robuvit has a bitter taste similar to those of Chinese herbal medicine. Irwan said it was finding the right flavours to mask the taste.
They settled on a Himalayan sea salt and lemon flavour, which is slightly sour, salty and minty.
It also contains turmeric for its antioxidant properties to help the liver recover.
The candy is recommended to be consumed one to two hours before alcohol drinking.
Irwan explained: “The first thing that you will notice is reduced Asian flush which is common in the Asian population.
“The next morning, you will notice that the headache and nausea feeling will be reduced, allowing you to function at your normal capacity.”
Sober Up is classified and registered as a food product in Malaysia. It is manufactured in a local GMP certified pharmaceutical factory.
Berjaya Pharmacy Distribution is a subsidiary of Berjaya Corporation, solely distributing its own range of exclusive products.
Irwan told us the firm had received enquiries for Sober Up in Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, although with the ongoing pandemic and Malaysia’s conditional movement control order (CMCO), it was focused on increasing its presence in the local market before entering new markets.
“We are aware that Malaysia may not be the biggest market, with only about 11.8% of drinkers which is around 3.7 million people. It is a small market, but we hope to increase our presence.
“I see the candy industry becoming more functional. If you look at what we have in the market today we have candies that are breath fresheners, sore throat, cough or throat relief which is going to be here to stay.
“In the future, we might see a candy to help with issues like diarrhoea, toothache, oral rehydration. There will be a drive towards making candy more functional and safer for the consumer.”