Recovery drink creators hope to hear 'More Cowbell' as their product hits gyms
A trio of local entrepreneurs hope their new workout recovery drink – Cowbell – will ring a bell with athletes.
ROCHESTER — Does being tired and thirsty after a hard workout ring a bell?
A Med City company thinks it has a serious solution with a funny name, and it comes in a bright purple can. Fittingly, the idea was born in a gym.
Despite the U.S. market being flooded with energy drinks, juices, fancy waters, sports drinks, sodas and more, three entrepreneurial-minded Rochester men couldn’t find a healthy recovery drink to chug after a long workout session at a Crossfit gym or elsewhere.
John Pacchetti and Nolan Fox were brainstorming possible business ideas while working out. Josh Grenell , the owner of Crossfit Progression, would check regularly with his two friends to see if they were cooking up something that he would like to be part of.
“There were a few things that I wasn't interested in. And then they talked about a recovery drink. I was very interested in that, because of the lack of appropriate recovery drinks on the market. I drink a lot of that every day, but I really didn't know what I was drinking,” said Grenell.
That desire for a drink that functionally helps exhausted muscles recover plus actually tastes good drove Grenell, Pacchetti and Fox to create their own.
“We were looking for a product that could be effective and be a product that we would personally use. I'm always interested in businesses that I can ethically and transparently back, because they're part of my daily life in some way,” said Crossfit enthusiast Pacchetti. Beside being an owner of the downtown Rochester's Bitter & Pour bar, he also co-owns Home Instead Senior Care of Southeastern Minnesota.
The trio also wanted to have enough active ingredients to truly help athletes’ bodies recover.
Fox, who is a track coach at John Marshall High School as well as being coach to the school’s Crossfit club, was concerned about the “energy” drinks and sports drinks that his young athletes were consuming.
“The kids are big into Bang and Monster and Gatorade. It's all just high sugar and boatloads of caffeine,” he said. “And recovery drinks that don’t have bad stuff often don’t have enough good ingredients to be effective, but you don’t know that because they hide behind 'a proprietary blend' and don’t list the ingredient amounts on the label.”
In 2019, they started developing this athletic drink with more than five times the active ingredients of competitors with a focus on serious results. That meant being transparent about the ingredients.
Cowbell includes 5,000 milligrams of BCAA – branched-chain amino acid – to increase muscle growth and decrease muscle breakdown, Omega-3 for muscle recovery and a turmeric/glucosamine mix to reduce inflammation and help prevent the breakdown of cartilage in joints. It’s formula also features 1,000 milligrams of BetaTOR HMB, which the Cowbell creators say clinical studies have found to increase strength and aids in recovery. It also has 50 milligrams of caffeine from green tea extract.
A can of Cowbell has 50 calories, no artificial ingredients and preservatives. It is pasteurized, which gives it a light carbonation.
They knew what they wanted in the can, but it took a while to figure out the name on the can. Leaning into the scientific aspect, they experimented with scientific formula names, but that didn’t feel right.
“Eventually, we started to pivot. We wanted to come up with a fun name for a serious product, and Cowbell was the winner,” said Pacchetti. “People celebrate a lot of endurance races, triathlons, even Formula One races by ringing a cowbell. So it kind of aligns with that plus it's just kind of cool.”
Plus, it also makes people think of the classic Saturday Night Live skit from 2000, where Christopher Walken shouts at Blue Öyster Cult to use “more cowbell” while recording “The Reaper.”
After spending a year making adjustments to the taste, they were ready to start production of Cowbell. However, the pandemic hit before they could flip the switch.
Despite that delay, there is now a warehouse full of purple cans of Cowbell in northwest Rochester. Cans of the lightly carbonated Cowbell officially hit the market at the start of June.
However, you won’t find it on store shelves. The Cowbell team is going directly to where the athletes are – the gyms.
“We don't really have a plan to go into the retail market. You'll probably never find a Cowbell in Target or Hy-vee, because we're such a premium recovery drink,” said Pacchetti. “Plus, we don't want to cannibalize the revenues for gym owners. We want to make them happy.”
Cowbell sells directly to gyms and workout studios, who in turn sell to their members. Before or after a workout, a member can pay $3 to $4 for a can of Cowbell and pull it out of a cooler at the gym. The young company is working with local and regional Crossfit gyms to sponsor competitions and events to introduce participants to their product.
Now Pacchetti, Fox and Grenell hope that calls for “More Cowbell” will be heard in more and more gyms across the Midwest and eventually the country.