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Off the Shelf: Sockin' it to you

Local energy drink tries to beat out Red Bull to caffeinate students

 by Kristi Eaton  published on Thursday, February 17, 2005

<em>Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>
Founder of Socko, Jordan Harwood, 29, says this energy drink is an alternative to other beverages such as Red Bull and  AMP.  Harwood also says his company does not use offensive material to market its product. /issues/arts/692037
Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Founder of Socko, Jordan Harwood, 29, says this energy drink is an alternative to other beverages such as Red Bull and AMP. Harwood also says his company does not use offensive material to market its product.
 

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Red Bull may be the most popular energy drink on the market, but owners of a local company haven't let that faze them.

Tempe-based company Bliss Beverage wants to make sure its caffeine-laden drink, named Socko, is the next big thing in new-age beverages popular among college students for late-night cram sessions or as a mixer for alcoholic beverages.

Founder Jordan Harwood, 29, began developing Socko in late 2003 as an alternative to Red Bull and other energy drinks including Mountain Dew's AMP, Rockstar and Piranha.

With all the competition, it's hard to think of Socko as anything but a copycat.

But Harwood says it's not.

"Socko is not what I call a 'wannabe' drink," he says. "There are so many new drinks on the market copying Red Bull, and I wanted to make an alternative to it."

Harwood says Socko is unlike any other new-age drink because Bliss Beverage does not use any offensive material in its marketing.

"There's no sex, drugs or rock 'n' roll in the selling of our product," he says. "Instead, we encourage each person to live a 'Socko' lifestyle."

Harwood says Socko is an adjective meaning youthful, energetic, blissful and strikingly impressive.

Developing the right taste and texture was an important first step in the creation of the product.

Harwood says Bliss Beverage brought in a chemics firm to find the perfect concoction. Harwood was looking for the right ingredients to make Socko "refreshing, light with a fruity taste." He also wanted it to be green.

Socko is already in 12 states and is expected to go nationwide by 2006.

Journalism freshman Allie Wester says she is excited for the expansion of Socko.

"I think it will be awesome when it goes nationwide because then I can have it when I go back to Vermont for the summers."

Wester says she drinks Socko to help her stay awake during all-night study sessions.

"One time I had two cans in one night to stay up to write a paper," she says. "Needless to say, the paper got done."

Unlike other energy drinks, Socko is a very value-driven product, says Harwood. Socko comes in 16-ounce cans, double the size of the traditional energy drink cans, but is sold for the same retail price of $1.99.

But the fact that Socko is not sold at all convenience stores has stopped some students from getting it on a regular basis.

"I get Red Bull instead of Socko because Red Bull is available at the Corner Market in the [Memorial Union], while Socko is not," says political science freshman Stacy Hettmansperger. "[It's] more convenient."

Socko contains very little sugar, but rather 2,000 milligrams of taurine, more than any other drink on the market. Taurine is an amino acid found in the heart, brain, muscles and blood. Red Bull has just 1,000 milligrams per can.

The promotion behind Socko has taken many different forms. Bliss Beverage has twice sponsored taste tests at ASU, passing out samples at various locations throughout campus. It has also sponsored the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, an event that supports the local art community and businesses.

Socko is the sole energy drink sold at local nightclubs Axis/Radius and Suede, of which Harwood is part owner, and has its name plastered on motocross vehicles and dragsters, as well as a NASCAR car.

ASU has always been an integral target in Socko's marketing.

"ASU was used as a tool to see what people wanted," Harwood says.

Harwood visited the campus and stood outside the Memorial Union three separate times to get student opinions; the first time was for taste-testing, and the other two times were for the distribution of free samples.

Harwood is planning to come back to campus next week to distribute more samples.

In the beverage's creation process, 400 ASU marketing students worked to devise the name of the new drink, although none of the names were selected.

Harwood says the experience helped ASU and Socko develop a relationship that is still going strong.

"ASU students definitely had a hand in the making of Socko," Harwood says.

Reach the reporter at kristi.eaton@asu.edu.



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