Sparkling water, natural flavors and sweeteners, and fruit and vegetable extracts are the only ingredients in a new soda beverage being launched in Tucson today.
Kurij - pronounced "courage" - is the brainchild of three Tucson entrepreneurs who had a vision of a healthy alternative to soda.
Alex Deo, Dr. Tung Bui and Alex Tai have brought that vision to life after four years of experimenting - oftentimes in their own kitchens.
The idea was born when then-UA student Deo shadowed Bui, an endodontist, at work.
Deo said Bui thought he'd be better suited as a businessman, and Bui had a vision of creating a drink that tasted like soda but didn't ruin teeth.
So the two, along with Tai, started having lab sessions in their kitchens, to figure out different tastes. "The base of the drink is what we calculated in the kitchen ... we just added different components for flavor," Deo said.
After about four years of experimentation, the trio is ready to put its product on the shelves of local stores, restaurants, business offices and dental offices.
Local brewery Borderlands Brewing will carry the sweet, berry flavored beverage, starting today.
Kurij boasts being a smile-friendly beverage because it doesn't contain acidic ingredients like traditional sodas. Rather, it relies on natural sweeteners stevia and xylitol. The latter is said to help prevent tooth decay.
"It's good for everybody," said Deo, CEO of Kurij. "It's good for diabetics because of its low glycemic index, there's no caffeine, it's vegan, gluten-free and it's good for kids."
Stevia and xylitol are the sweeteners of choice for diabetics, from a medical standpoint, says Denese Bottrell, a certified health coach. "They cause a different reaction in the body. They don't cause a spike in insulin like regular sugars."
The only problem Bottrell sees with the drink is xylitol can cause stomach upset. "Many people use it with no problems, but some have a sensitivity to it."
Deo says there is such a small amount in each bottle, it shouldn't cause a problem. "I've drank as many as 20 bottles during production and have never had an issue," he said.
If a person's body doesn't have a problem with xylitol, though, Bottrell says it would definitely be good for somebody trying to transition off of soda or as an occasional sweet, Bottrell said.
"They (xylitol and stevia) don't promote more cravings like regular sugars," Bottrell said. "Sugar causes you to want more. It's like a drug.
"And anything is better than chemical sweeteners ... they cause no goodness in the body."
Kurij will be available in one flavor - Yumberry-for now, Deo said. Once the company sees success with Yumberry, it will bring out the other five flavors it has come up with, which include Yuzu-Raspberry, Lemon Lime, Tangerine Dream, Tropical Breeze and Doc Holliday.
Doc Holliday was named after the infamous Tombstone dentist as a "tip of our hat to our Arizona heritage," Deo said.
Kurij Launch Party
Kurij is having a launch party from 4 to 8 p.m. today at Borderlands Brewing, 119 E. Toole Ave. Kurij will be available for sample and purchase. For more information on Kurij, visit them online at www.kurij.com
Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4137.