London-based drinks brand NIX&KIX has launched a new look, low sugar offering with a hint of spice. Holly Motion caught up with the founders to discuss where their nine-month journey lead them and how they’ve gone about satisfying some tricky customers
'The health-conscious aspect was important from the start,' NIX&KIX founders Julia Kessler and Kerstin Robinson told Imbibe.
'When we set out to make the drinks, we had strict criteria such as no added sugars and only natural ingredient. Later on, we became a bit obsessed over how low we can get the natural sugar content without adding artificial ingredients. We think that we’ve now reached the boundary, any lower than what we currently have and they would begin to start lacking in taste.'
After a lot of trial and error and rigorous testing Kessler and Robinson achieved below 4.8g sugar per 100ml for their range of Mango & Ginger, Peach & Vanilla and Cucumber & Mint without adding any artificial sweeteners.
The pair acknowledge it’s a fine balance. 'It’s hard to make a soft drink that is indulgent in taste, yet still ticks the boxes in terms of natural ingredient and lower calories. But we think we achieved it.'
As well as being low cal and low sugar, NIX&KIX are vegan-friendly. 'Appealing to vegans is more of a personal goal,' they said. 'We are both borderline vegans [vegetarians that eat vegan whenever it’s possible] and have a large circle of vegan friends that are often complaining about the lack of options. It was surprising to us that not all soft drinks are vegan so we made sure ours are.'
As with everything else, quality is important to achieve a consistently great taste profile. Also, every chilli type is different
The three drinks feature a hint of cayenne chilli. 'This gives the range a more sophisticated taste profile and opens up the world of opportunity for non-sugary, non-alcoholic drinks,' they said. The pairs’ research found that capsaicin in chillies has metabolism-boosting and energy releasing properties. 'More interestingly, it gives you an endorphin rush. As the body defends itself against the heat of a chilli it releases endorphins, which leaves you with a “high”', Robinson explained.
The spicy component is sourced from a 'Chilli Raunch' based in the heart of Bedfordshire. 'The guys there have won several awards for their produce, so we knew their chillies were of the highest quality,' Kessler said.
'It wasn’t easy to find the right chilli,' Robinson added. 'As with everything else, quality is important to achieve a consistently great taste profile. Also, every chilli type is different – some would burn your tongue the second you take a sip and those aren’t the ones we wanted in our drinks. Our chosen chillis offer a gentle heat that slowly builds at the back of your throat. A bit like a good glass of whisky would do.'
The pair say the drinks are delicious on their own or can be used as a simple mixer with alcoholic beverages to 'create exciting new flavour combinations and healthier cocktails'.
The drinks will continue to roll out in the UK on-trade and are already in selected bars and hotels. In terms of extending the range, the founders said: 'We have lots of interesting things in the pipeline in terms of other flavours, as well as a more concentrated version for the bar trade in particular. We’d love to hear from anyone with suggestions for interesting flavour combinations we could experiment with.'
Robinson and Kessler’s guide to the range:
Cucumber & Mint:
A full bodied journey of cucumber – fleshy with skin and juiciness balanced with green garden mint leaf undertones with a slight sweetness and cooling note on the tongue, and then a contrasting warming prickle from chilli.
Mango & Ginger:
Juicy, fleshy mango notes which develop into a rooty, green almost earthy ginger character with some prickling heat from the added chilli kick.
Similar to a ginger beer, just without the high sugar content.
Peach & Vanilla:
Soft creamy Bourbon vanilla with juicy full bodied fleshy peach notes, some soft stone fruit notes and a slight chilli tingle.
Often described as a less sweet cream soda.