Drinking water is intuitive—or so you’d think. But according to a 2018 survey by Quench (a provider of filtered water systems), 77% of working Americans stated they don’t drink enough water to meet their health needs. Enter Reston-based LifeFuels, a bottle manufacturer on a mission to make drinking water fun, nutritional and flavorful, while also giving you reminders throughout the day to stay hydrated.
The tech startup began in 2006. “That year was a bit early to bring a technology like this to market,” says co-founder and CEO Jonathon Perrelli. “We effectively shelved the idea and just continued to research technologies in consumer electronics, and we thought a lot about vitamins and how to create a beverage on-the-go.”
Perrelli knew his co-founder, Rob Lawson-Shanks, CTO, from prior work together. “One day in the summer of 2014, the day before Rob was supposed to go back to school, I showed him the pitch deck for LifeFuels, and Rob made the decision at that moment to not go back to school,” Perrelli says. “I thought his parents would kill me.”
Together, they created three LifeFuels products: the bottle, FueldPods (flavored inserts that provide vitamins and other hydrating nutrients) and the app, and—after several fundraising rounds, including a reported $20 million from beverage giant Keurig Dr Pepper in early 2019—the product hit the market in mid-September. The bottle holds 16.9 fluid ounces, and the water sits atop a battery-operated dispenser, which releases the FueldPods into the water by pressing the bottle’s button.
“The unique and very interesting aspect of this water bottle is that we have water sitting on top of an electronic,” Perrelli says. “It’s very simple and elegant. One button does it all and communicates well with the app, and there’s security built in between the bottle to protect the battery.”
Marketed as “life-proof,” the bottle is made to last. “It’s made of tritan BPA-free polymers, and aluminium-ionized components, so you get this really rich, luxurious experience that’s also very rugged and is going to get you through your day,” Lawson-Shanks says. The battery lasts seven days and is rechargeable with a micro-USB cable.
The main use of the LifeFuels app is to track users’ hydration, which the founders hope encourages people to drink more water, just like a Fitbit motivates users to walk. “If you think about pedometers, they were available for decades, but it wasn’t until we could wear them on our wrists and have a nice interface that people cared about tracking 10,000-step goals,” Perelli says. The app also sends notifications to phones and smart watches that say, “Time to ReFuel,” to get users to take a sip.
On the liquid side, FueldPods contain multivitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes, and come in flavors like blackberry acai, ginger citrus and more. “The FueldPods are zero to five calories per serving,” Perrelli says. “They’re sweetened by Stevia and all-natural flavors.” Users can mix the FuelPods for customized flavors, and each dispenses up to 15 drinks. “We work with world-leading nutritionists to figure out what the best things are to put in the FueldPods to help people become their best selves,” Lawson-Shanks says.
Adds Perrelli, “We all have the goal of remaining healthy and we aspire to achieve wellness in our lives. This has been a thread throughout the company’s existence.” // LifeFuels bottle $179, FuelPods $11.99 each