Interviewed by Barkers New Zealand, February 2022
Ārepa is a New Zealand born company on a mission to provide the world with sustainable and naturally produced brain food. Hungry for an edge during the challenges of the 2021 lockdown, a bunch of us got into Ārepa products and were so impressed that we wanted to know more about the business and further understand the benefits of this brain food.
Although caffeine is a nootropic, your daily cup of joe doesn’t provide the essential ingredients to support brain function, and where caffeine fails, Ārepa delivers. Improving focus, clarity and long-term cognitive health, those of us that have been using Ārepa have really felt the benefits and can see how it has quickly become a leader in this unique market with the science to back it up. As a fellow New Zealand company that shares the same values as co-founders Angus Brown and Zac Robinson, we caught up with the guys as we kicked off the year to talk brain food and how Ārepa came to life.
What would you say to someone who may have heard about nootropics but isn't entirely sure how it works or refuse to believe it works?
Zac: For people who refuse to believe it works, I remind them that there are plenty of products in the world that make your brain work worse (alcohol is a good starting point). Then ask the question; why could there not be a drink that makes your brain work better? This was the question that started us on the journey nine years ago. Now we have scientific and plenty of anecdotal proof that you can. We continue to research, test and improve our products, we have seven new trials underway, and I don't see us stopping any time soon.
What is it about Ārepa drinks that makes our brains work better?
Angus: In clinical studies, our caffeine-free beverage Ārepa has been shown to improve mental performance under fatigue as well as memory retention and multi-scale entropy in university students. Our drink contains unique and local ingredients like Neuroberry Blackcurrants and Pine Bark Extract which have both been proven to benefit your brain's health and performance. We have seven clinical studies underway investigating a wide range of benefits that we believe the Ārepa formula has on the brain, so we’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of understanding Ārepa’s positive impact on our brains.
So how did you two meet, and more importantly what was the inspiration behind creating Ārepa?
Zac: Angus and I met at University in Wellington. In our first year after University, Angus called me with an idea for a drink that could make your brain work better, helping to reduce stress, anxiety and improve focus. At the time, I was feeling the pressures of a busy job, dealing with stress and could see the need for a product like Ārepa. It was a product I wanted for myself. From there, we started working together to bring the idea to life. It has been nine years since then, and we are still good mates with the same mission to make brains work better.
For the everyday person how would you describe what Ārepa is?
Zac: Ārepa is a brainfood company designing scientifically developed and proven natural products that increase the health and performance of the brain. Providing short term cognitive benefits of greater clarity and focus, while protecting long term cognitive health.
We understand that it takes years and years to develop and fund research, especially in a more untouched avenue like Neuroscience. What was the sign or moment that you decided to take the dive with Ārepa?
Angus: We believed that for Ārepa to become the world’s smartest drink, we needed the world’s smartest brain to formulate it. We came across one of those brains, a neuroscientist (Professor Andrew Scholey). Professor Scholey works in the field of brain health and performance via nutrition and is currently ranked 4th in the world in this space based on the number of published research cited to him. After six months of begging and a few trips to Melbourne where he resides to try and convince him, he agreed to help us and that was the moment we went all in.
What does starting your company in Aotearoa mean to you both and what kind of ties does your product, design and name have with our beautiful homeland?
Angus: Our mission is to build a multi-generational company out of NZ that exports high-value, sustainable, brain health food around the world to help the 1 in 6 people on this planet that suffer from cognitive concerns. Being from this beautiful country we wanted our name to represent the indigeneity and heritage of where we come from on the world stage. My family is from Whanganui where the Ratana Pa is based and the origins of Arepa and Omeka, while Zac whakapapas to Ngapuhi iwi and the Ngati Hao hapu. Ārepa means alpha and to us Ārepa is the unique frequency of alpha waves found in the brain, that state psychologists call 'flow'.
Zac, we love the design and branding of Ārepa and its consistency across the products. Is this something that was thought through from the beginning, or did it come with the brand story?
This was always a conscious decision from the beginning. We wanted to pay homage to our ingredients' beauty, power and scientific backing. Transparency is one of our pillars. We never want to deceive or hide things. We chose to reflect these qualities across all our touch points. If you make products that help with mental clarity and performance, you need to reflect those elements with the design.
Angus, we saw that sometime after you finished University you got a job at an energy drink company. What part did that experience play in the creation of Ārepa?
I remember I had just sold a whole bunch of energy drinks to a supermarket, then saw a 12-year-old girl walk out of the store with one of the giant 710ml cans of the stuff and I thought, am I doing any good here?
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