This article originally appeared on Fortune.com
To my right, a model is being stretched out by a jacked, tattooed trainer.
To my left, the founders of Revere, a health startup, are completing a rep of squats and lunges. The four of us are in the middle of a training session at The Dogpound, a gym designed for the rich, famous, or, at the very least, incredibly fit (members like Hugh Jackman and Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima check all three boxes).
The music is bumping (a Justin Bieber remix maybe?) and beautiful people in all-black, skin-tight athleisure lift and box to the beat. Meanwhile, I’m struggling: the session consists of a series of strength-building exercises. Cheating has become a survival strategy.
If I’d managed to finish my pre-workout drink, maybe I would have fared better. The nectarine-colored concoction, prepared for me by Alexandra Blodgett, Revere’s co-founder and CMO, contains a vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, powder made from “scientifically proven plant-based ingredients” (sweet potato, pomegranate, beetroot, and green tea powder) mixed with water. The resulting beverage promises to make my workout “work harder” by improving my “energy, stamina, and focus.”
Revere, which, along with the pre-workout mixture makes a powder designed for post strength-training along with one for post-cardio, is Blodgett’s brainchild. Back when she worked at a boutique cycling studio, she grew tired of watching people leave a class and immediately consume an “800 calorie green smoothie” or a sugar-laced protein bar.
And so along with Matthew Scott, the startup’s chief executive, and Jasper Nathaniel, its COO, she worked on developing a post-workout drink capable of deleting the air quotes around healthy. All three co-founders stress they don’t have a background in nutrition, which is why they brought in Mike Barwis, a fitness trainer, and Jenn Sacheck, an associate professor of nutrition at Tufts University, as advisors. Together, the team has worked on building and refining the product for over a year.
Finally, the powders are ready for the real world. Revere, which raised $2 million in a seed round led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures, officially launched today. Packets are available via a subscription service, which starts at $34 a month (a tier designed for people who work out two to three times a week).
The health and wellness sector, which generates hundreds of billions a year in the U.S., is hot but crowded. To get its foot in the door, Revere is hoping to capitalize on a number of concurrent trends: the rise of natural, “science-based” eating (which, as a category, is largely unregulated), and growing fears over dairy, soy, gluten, and, most importantly, sugar, which helped wipe out once ubiquitous juice and smoothie chains such as Organic Avenue and Jamba Juice.
As a millennial who works out regularly (if casually), and tries to be health conscious (but doesn’t always have time to cook), I fall squarely within the company’s target consumer base, which Scott describes as people who are interested in fitness but not obsessed with it. The company’s marketing certainly worked on me: I was immediately drawn to the products’ packaging, which was clean, simple, and touted the ingredients’ science-based results.
But I couldn’t get past the taste. The pre-workout beverage was cloyingly sweet—it contains the natural sweetener stevia, which is up to 350 times sweeter than sugar. After completing the class, Blodgett handed me a post-cardio workout drink, made from a blend of pea protein, rice protein, tart cherry, and sweet potato. This one was just as sweet, and harder to drink, mostly due to its heavy, slightly chalky, consistency.
Flavor issues aside, Revere faces significant hurdles. The company is going after millennials who want to replace their post-workout smoothie with a vegan, protein-rich beverage that’s not a meal replacement (packets run from 120 to 170 calories). It’s already a crowded category; companies such as CytoSports (the maker of Muscle Milk), General Mills, and Kellogg have all amped up investments in plant-based protein drinks and portable snack products. Scott, Revere’s CEO, says company’s products, which are rooted in easy-to-understand nutritional science (as opposed to trendy superfoods like “acai and kale”), will elevate it above all the noise.
While the “science” section of the company’s website doesn’t list any concrete details about the research behind the powder’s ingredients, the following quote, from nutrition professor and company advisor Sacheck, is prominently displayed: “Decades of scientific data has shown that the best nutrition comes from whole foods. Simple, natural nutrition is all the body needs to perform at its best.” Which seems like a slightly weird message for a powdered drink company to be sending.
In retrospect, after my conversation with Revere’s founders, I should have returned across the street to the gym to do an informal poll—as clear fitness enthusiasts, the models and trainers might have been more receptive to the powders.
But I was sweaty, tired, and too intimidated to return to gym full of people with single-digit body fat. At that moment, I just wanted water. And so I grabbed a bottle, plus some “whole foods” (an apple and packet of almonds) from a nearby bodega, and headed back to the office.