Hangover Woes

The most common misconception about anti-hangover drinks is that they can cure a hangover.
“There is no cure for a hangover,” says Shawn Adamson, co-founder of Hangover Joe’s Get Up & Go. “It’s just like the common cold—no one has come up with a cure or a vaccine for it.”

Jay Grdina, CEO of Dolce Bevuto LLC, makers of NOHO, agrees. “Hangovers are technically a disease,” he says. “You can try to mask some of the symptoms, but the base of the matter is you still have a hangover.”

Anti-hangover drinks have been on the market for some time now, and while they can’t cure a hangover they can offer relief and a more expedited recovery from one. Hangover Joe’s, for example, is a morning-after shot formulated to provide an accelerated recovery from a hangover—within 45 minutes to an hour after taking the product, Adamson says, consumers should feel 60 to 80 percent better.

One of the main active ingredients in the product is kudzu, a benign herb that is often found in Asian cuisine. The herb is absorbed by the spleen and stomach and works to cool your body’s temperature and assist in curbing nausea while rehydrating. Another active ingredient is picamilon, a nutraceutical that combines niacin to aid with headaches often associated with a hangover.

NOHO, developed by Dr. David Galardi, an executive at AmerisourceBergen, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical services companies, works a bit differently—it’s formulated to help prevent hangovers from happening.

“You are protecting your body from the adverse effects of alcohol,” says Grdina. “It’s just like wearing sunblock.”

Consumed before drinking alcohol NOHO is a compilation of minerals and vitamins such as sodium, zinc and potassium, which are being used by the liver to metabolize the alcohol.

“What we do is very simple,” explains Sean Stevenson, president of the West Hollywood, Calif.-based company, Dolce Bevuto LLC. “We overload your body with those vitamins and minerals that your liver uses to metabolize that alcohol...protecting your body from getting a hangover.”

While the cure for a hangover—or the common cold—has yet to be discovered, the anti-hangover drink market has gained momentum over the past two years.  

Adamson reports that he expects to double the number of accounts the product is in nationally next year, bringing the total close to 100,000. Hangover Joe’s also is planning to expand internationally, adding New Zealand, Australia and Canada, with more locations in the pipeline.

“Since we launched [in 2009],” he says, “we went from selling hundreds of thousands of bottles to millions of bottles.”

NOHO is experiencing a similar uptick in sales. Focusing on the on-premise it recently has inked deals with W Hotels and Kimpton Hotels to be included in their mini bars. The brand also is in all the MGM properties in Las Vegas as well as The Palms and The Cosmoplitan. NOHO also became available in Duane Reade locations.

Grdina, who purchased Dolce Bevuto, LLC in 2010, says that in a two-year time period he’s grown the number of accounts NOHO is sold in from hundreds to tens of thousands.

Introduced late last year, Never Hungover is among the newer products available and founder and CEO Parrish Whitaker says that the brand is off to a good start in its home base of Austin, Texas. The company recently secured distribution with Brown Distributing Co., Standard Sales Co. and Tri-City Distributors.

Never Hungover was among the many anti-hangover products this year at the NACS show. Whitaker says that the company ran out of product at the show due to the positive response from attendees, handing out more than 4,000 bottles. Whitaker has plans to expand distribution this upcoming year to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and markets east.

Coined as a natural hangover detox drink, Never Hungover is a mix of natural antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins and minerals that helps the body process acetaldehydes, harmful toxins produced by alcohol, into acetic acid so it can quickly leave the body, Whitaker explains. His sister, Misti, who was diagnosed with Lupus at the age of 25, was consuming a similar formulation prescribed by the family’s holistic doctor following her kidney transplant (her father was the donor).

Whitaker tried the drink before a night of drinking and felt the effects. He sampled his friends and they were also impressed, he says. So Whitaker approached the doctor about producing a commercial beverage and two years later, Never Hungover was born.

According to Gary Hemphill, managing director and chief operating officer, Information Services, Beverage Marketing Corp. (BMC), “The segment represents a small niche opportunity. In some cases, the products have been line extensions off energy drink lines. Efficacy is key. If the products deliver on their promises, the segment may develop.”

As consumers continue to look for functional beverages, these typically two-ounce shots seem to be delivering on their promise. The market is still too small for analysts to start measuring its sales independently.

Grdina plans to take advantage of the current trend. NOHO has product extensions planned for the first two quarters of 2013 as well as flavor extensions. “We are putting the pedal to the metal right now,” he says.

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