In the aftermath of a recent lawsuit linked to the tragic consequences of a highly caffeinated Panera “Charged Lemonade,” questions surrounding the safety of energy drinks have gained renewed attention. This incident has triggered a broader discourse on the potential health risks associated with such beverages. However, amidst these concerns, a 2024 food trend is taking shape — one that is underscored by the findings of a recent consumer survey, revealing an 82% demand for cleaner energy drink alternatives.
Quantum Energy Squares, founded by Leah Marquez and Dan Medvene, stands at the forefront of this movement. In an exclusive interview with Marquez, we explore the roots of Quantum’s inception and its pivotal role in reshaping the energy consumption landscape as they join the list of startups to watch.
The Genesis of Quantum Energy Squares
Marquez, the co-founder and COO, candidly discussed her personal challenge in seeking a reliable energy source as an essential tool to navigate her hectic lifestyle — a relatable experience for many Americans immersed in the hustle culture and a probable catalyst for the sustained growth of the energy drink category. Despite disliking the taste and jittery effects of traditional energy drinks, they were her go-to. Simultaneously, Medvene, Quantum’s CEO, sought nutritious bars that weren’t merely sugary snacks disguised as “energy” bars to support his recreational pursuits.
As the duo set out to find a solution, their research uncovered a common flaw in typical energy bars — reliance on simple carbs, primarily sugar, for an energy boost. This realization birthed Quantum Energy Squares, the first caffeinated energy bar crafted from organic green coffee beans and wholesome, real whole foods, delivering a boost equivalent to that of a cup of coffee. The mission: to provide a sustainable, healthy energy source while delivering balanced plant-based macronutrients.
2024 Food Trend: Shifting Consumer Attitudes Towards Energy Drinks
To better align Quantum with the evolving needs of consumers, the founders commissioned an independent survey involving 2,000 U.S. adults on attitudes toward energy drinks and non-liquid caffeine sources. Results, reviewed by Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, a prominent nutrition expert, unveiled substantial insights.
Leah Marquez emphasized the significance of the findings, stating, “The survey results validated our belief that energy consumers are searching for a healthier solution than what conventional energy drinks currently provide.”
A standout statistic underscores the shift, revealing that 82% actively seek cleaner energy alternatives devoid of artificial sweeteners or chemicals—an unmistakable sign of the growing awareness among consumers regarding ingredients.
Regarding the future of energy drinks, data supports the embrace of innovative formats, with 83% expressing openness to caffeinated bars, provided they are perceived as healthier and have a palatable taste. They cited their interest as being sparked by its usefulness as midday snacks, pre-workout energy, and fuel for outdoor activities such as hiking, running, and cycling.
Marquez notes these important revelations are not only a driver of the anticipated 2024 food trend, but they arrive amid heightened FDA scrutiny of the $21 billion energy drink industry, adding that certain beverages are prohibited by both the NCAA and the Olympic Committee due to the presence of banned performance stimulants such as guarana and taurine.
Quantum’s Unique Market Position
Quantum offers a novel way to consume caffeine for those on the move that extends beyond its convenient portability. To eliminate drawbacks like crashes tied to sugar spikes or jitters caused by too much caffeine, Quantum takes an unconventional approach by combining whole foods with caffeine to slow down the absorption rate. This prolongs the effects for smoother energy while adding the benefit of nourishment through balanced macronutrients.
Leah Marquez also highlights their holistic approach to product development, stating, “We’ve made a conscious decision to exclude synthetic caffeine and sugar alcohols like allulose, sucralose, erythritol, etc., in our formula because of the increasing awareness of potential health risks related to sugar alcohols.”
The results from a recent study on sugar alcohols substantiate the validity of Marquez’s perspective. Erythritol, a popular sweetener often found in keto-friendly and low-calorie foods, can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular events, and both the World Health Organization and National Health Institutes have since issued warnings.
Built upon the founders’ apprehensions regarding typical ingredients found in bars and energy drinks, encompassing their immediate and long-term side effects, Quantum has consistently placed a premium on health and functionality. Additionally, they accord significant importance to taste—a key factor for survey respondents considering a shift from energy beverages to bars.
Marquez spoke to the importance of taste, stating, “When most manufacturers rely on research and development to formulate their products, we collaborate with a pastry chef to make a delicious tasting bar and a dietitian to ensure balanced macronutrients from real whole foods.”
Through 200 iterations and hundreds of consumer taste tests consistently surpassing leading brands, Quantum’s lineup includes seven distinct flavors like the popular Salted Peanut Butter Crunch and Dark Chocolate Pink Himalayan Salt. Looking forward, Quantum plans to introduce three new flavors, providing more choices for those looking to make conscious decisions about their energy intake.
Shaping a Healthier Tomorrow
With a focus on health, taste, and functionality, Quantum distinguishes itself from traditional energy drinks and bars, contributing to a shift toward more mindful energy consumption. Despite launching in 2020, Quantum swiftly achieved national distribution, securing placements with prominent retailers like Sprouts and HEB. The brand’s success has also garnered support from investors who mirror their active target audience, including U.S. Open Tennis Champion Sloane Stephens and UFC World Champion Demetrious Johnson.
Marquez concluded by urging consumers to champion their health and well-being through a critical examination of the ingredients in the food and beverages they choose. Her personal journey to acquire this knowledge was what propelled her into a movement centered on authenticity and prioritizing people in product development. This impassioned call for conscious consumer choices emphasizes the brand’s commitment to fostering a healthier tomorrow, solidifying its place at the forefront of the evolving energy consumption landscape.