At C4, we live and breathe by one simple mission statement: “To innovate, inspire, and make products that maximize human potential accessible to all.”
This is our goal. This is our North star. Why do I begin with this statement?
Because I want to zoom in on that first component – to innovate. We know that innovation is perhaps the most critical factor when it comes to leading the industry, and it’s something that we’re constantly chasing.
Over the past decade, we’ve experienced innovation in a wide range of categories: packaging technology, flavor enhancements, ingredient science, delivery formats, even those little pillow paks that live in every powder tub (called desiccant packs). Point being – we’re always looking for new discoveries and opportunities that take our products to the next level.
One area of relentless innovation at C4 surrounds our flavor experience. We’re constantly on the hunt for ways to improve the experience of our products, and when it comes to the taste, our demand for excellence is unwavering.
What are Natural Flavors?
Natural Flavors are a mixture of flavor compounds which are derived from plant or animal materials.
What are Artificial Flavors?
Artificial Flavors are made by synthesizing chemical compounds in a laboratory setting.
The Evolution of Natural Flavors
Several years ago, we made the decision to heavily invest in R&D that leaned further into natural flavors, in an effort to reduce the artificial flavor components in our products.
While natural and artificial flavors are similar from a chemical perspective, artificial options can sometimes provide a more intense flavor experience – making them the often-favored option to deliver great taste.
However, incorporating natural flavors, requires a rebalance of the entire product – as it can affect taste, mouthfeel, visual appearance, and potentially product stability. While many brands choose to stay the course and continue their use of artificial flavors, we’ve stayed true to our mission of flavor innovation.
Fast forward to today, and we’ve made tremendous progress across our C4 Energy and C4 Smart Energy carbonated products, along with our Project Clear Evolution powder family, which are proudly formulated with natural flavors. However, we’ve made even more progress on a particular subset of the C4 lineup – the Natural Zero family – which we’ve formulated exclusively with natural sweeteners as well.
The Challenge with Natural Sweeteners
Flavors are one thing. Sweeteners, however, are a completely different challenge.
When it comes to sweeteners, we rely on them to not only deliver their components to the taste experience, but also to help offset the flavors of our performance ingredients.
One thing that is often forgotten about is that ingredients such as caffeine, beta-alanine, and some forms of creatine don’t have an inherently neutral taste when mixed with water. Each ingredient that we include presents its own unique set of organoleptic challenges. (Organoleptic = Involving the assessment of flavor as well as smells, visual appearance, and mouthfeel)
In summary – the ingredients that we love for energy and performance rarely have a pleasant taste, and that’s where flavors and sweeteners come in!
Our go-to natural sweetener is Stevia – a plant extract native to Brazil, but grown and sourced in several different parts of the world.
Now in the realm of sweeteners, artificial options provide a stronger intensity which helps to mask the taste of functional ingredients and deliver the level of sweetness that pair well with each flavor profile.
Switching to natural should be easy though, right? Wrong.
In fact, our Director of Product Development, Frank DiLorenzo, had this to say...
"The core limitation of natural sweeteners is they lack the same intensity as their artificial counterparts and they often have a prevalent and discernible aftertaste. Furthermore, many functional ingredients, the key materials that provide consumer benefit, have unpleasant organoleptic attributes, which increases the level of difficulty of flavoring products using exclusively natural sweeteners and flavors. As a result, our flavor development timeline is considerably longer when working on natural products due to the complexity involved in balancing flavors, acids, sweeteners, while minimizing the undesirable flavor characteristics inherent in the functional ingredients."
Long story short – the journey to deliver an incredible tasting product that uses natural flavors AND natural sweeteners is no simple walk in the park.
Take our C4 Energy Natural Zero for example. This product took over 18 months of R&D to dial in to our standards (remember that obsession with flavor experience?), which saw over 90 versions of the product before it was ultimately given the thumbs up.
There’s natural, and there’s C4 Natural Zero
- Make an incredible C4 Product. Check.
- Use only natural flavors. Check.
- Take it a step further - only natural sweeteners. Check.
- Go even further – include 0g of sugar per serving. Check.
That’s right – the Natural Zero promise delivers incredible C4 products that are naturally sweetened with 0g of sugar per serving.
Just as history recalls a compromise between taste and performance, many naturally sweetened products on shelves today often contain relatively high amounts of sugar per serving. But not anymore, because (once again), the team at C4 has continued to drive innovation and re-define the landscape of the industry.
The C4 Natural Zero Family
C4 Sport Natural Zero – combines the explosive energy and performance of C4 Sport with natural flavors and sweeteners. Offered in two mouthwatering options (Mango & Strawberry Lemonade), and at $19.99 (or $15.99 with subscription!) for 25 servings, there’s truly nothing else in its class.
C4 Energy Natural Zero – 18 months in the making, C4 Energy Natural Zero is our Zero Carb, Zero Sugar, and Zero Calorie drink that will continue to change the energy drink game. Featuring 120mg of natural caffeine from CoffeeBerry® and 250mg of Cognizin® Citicoline for focus, the future of clean energy is here, and it’s just getting started.
C4 Extreme Natural Zero – the first C4 of our Project Clear Evolution™ platform, C4 Extreme Natural Zero combines 200mg of caffeine with dual-nitrate ingredients for explosive performance, including 1g of NitraMax (NO3-C)™ Citrulline Nitrate. This is the evolution of performance energy.
The C4 Natural Zero Promise
The Natural Zero symbol on our products is more than just natural sweeteners with zero sugar. It’s our commitment to keep pushing, to keep innovating, and to keep eliminating the compromises of yesterday. It’s naturally awesome.