We interviewed founder Catharine Arnston who has made it her mission to show America the benefits of algae and “convince consumers it isn’t weird.” It took her six years of hard work to make consuming algae mainstream and create a national brand.
She explained that all algae tablets are organically grown, Non-GMO, vegan, raw, Paleo and ketogenic. They are completely natural and have only one ingredient and one calorie and contain no sugar, caffeine, chemicals, soy or gluten. As far as her customer demographic, it is mainly athletes, sports enthusiasts, busy professionals and health conscious consumers.
Here’s what else she told us about the Boston-based company…
How the Idea Came About Through Her Sister’s Cancer Diagnosis
I started Energybits after my younger sister developed breast cancer and was advised by the oncologist that an alkaline diet would help her heal. I helped my sister research alkaline foods and along the way, discovered algae. When I learned algae was the most alkaline, nutrient-dense food in the world and could help prevent most chronic illnesses, including cancer, I knew I had stumbled onto something big. And yes, my sister fully recovered.
The Health Benefits of Algae
As I dug into the nutrition of algae, I learned it has been used in Asia for 50 years where it is a multi-billion-dollar industry there. I also found out algae has 64 percent protein, which is three times that of steak, 40 percent vitamins and minerals, and is endorsed by the United Nations and NASA as the most nutrient dense food in the world. It provides energy and focus naturally and has 100,000 studies documenting its benefits. The only problem with algae seemed to be that it was virtually unknown outside of Asia. I knew algae would be a game changer for America if I could convince consumers it wasn’t weird.
Her Products & Bestsellers
We sell algae that is cultivated in fresh water tanks and pressed into tiny tablets you swallow or chew by the handful. We recommend you swallow the tablets because they taste very green. We refer to the tablets as bits because they are bits of food like raisins, kale chips or nuts. We sell two types of algae and have four brands. Our two bestsellers are Energybits (spirulina algae) which give you energy, focus and satisfy hunger and Recoverybits (chlorella algae) which removes toxins, build the immune system, supports anti-aging and speeds athletic recovery by removing lactic acid. It also removes alcohol and prevents hangovers.
Pros & Cons to Running a Business in Boston
Pros: Boston is a full of colleges so we have been able to attract a lot of smart college interns to help us during our early bootstrapped years. Boston is also a very big sports town, so once our brand becomes better known, we hope to work with all of Boston’s NHL, MLB, MLS, NBA and MLL teams. Our office is just our block away from the TD Center where the Boston Bruins and Celtics play. We’d love to fuel them with our plant-based protein as we do other professional teams.
Cons: Boston is a bit conservative and a bit slower to embrace holistic plant-based solutions that places like California. But we’re happy to be here in Boston and leading the way.
Her ‘Tank’ Experience
Over the years, hundreds of friends said we would be perfect for Shark Tank. I hesitated because I wasn’t sure if we were ready for national exposure. But after I won a national award from Entrepreneur Magazine in December of 2015, I decided we should give it a try. In the spring of 2016, I submitted an application/samples and after multiple rounds of interviews, we were selected…I wasn’t really nervous about being in the Tank, but I was worried that the Sharks would not be able to grasp the enormity of the opportunity we offered. Algae is a game changer for every consumer and every athlete as well as the health of the environment, but I only had a few minutes to explain the science, the history and our track record.
Plans for the Future
Our retail expansion has just begun and we hope to soon have 1,000 plus retailers including national sporting goods chains like EMS, REI, Dick’s, health food chains like Whole Foods and wellness partners like Dr. Oz, Dr. Hyman, Dr. Mercola and Dr. Pompa. We are the first company to bring algae to national prominence by making it fun, fast and easy to use. Basically what we are doing for algae is similar to what Lululemon did for yoga or what Steve Jobs and Apple did for computing – we are taking something with a storied pedigree that is rich in history and complexity and making it accessible and fun for consumers. Our plan is to build a community that supports health, fitness and plant-based nutrition as we grow we will launch more algae products like algae drinks, bars and snacks. Anything we do will always be good for you and good for Mother Earth too.