Energy Drinks

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Keeping tabs on your competition is one thing.

Decorating an entire wall of your office with their products is quite another.

For Tyler Benedict, it's a way to remember how hard he's worked and how quickly it could all slip away.

His display of more than 200 energy drinks represents the success he's earned in an industry that's more likely to send intrepid entrepreneurs into bankruptcy than into Donald Trump's tax bracket.

"About 80 percent of these are gone," he says proudly. "Most energy drinks fail in six months."

Benedict is the founder, owner and CEO of Greensboro-based Source Beverages, a thriving energy drink company with expected revenues of $2 million this year and distribution in more than 20 states.

At 31, Benedict works at home in jeans and button-down shirts, selling the most caffeinated energy drink on the market.

Burn, a tangy citrus-flavored beverage created in 2002, packs a walloping 118 milligrams of caffeine in each 8.3-ounce blazing yellow can — 48 percent more than industry leader Red Bull.

But the creator of this human rocket fuel isn't what you expect. Benedict exudes an aura of calm and tranquility more typical of a yoga guru than the extreme athletes who down his product.

The University of Florida journalism graduate doesn't fit the mold of success in the billion-dollar energy drink busi-ness — an industry where nearly 1,000 new drinks have been released in the past four years.

"We've been very careful not to grow too fast," Benedict says. "Lots of companies try to saturate the national market right away, and they go bust."

Red Bull, introduced in the United States in 1996, jump-started the energy drink business. The Austrian company has dominated the market ever since, and in 2004, its sales topped $1.2 billion. His other competitors include multibillion dollar companies Coca-Cola and Pepsico.

Benedict isn't fazed by the competition. He has a zen-like confidence that if he works hard enough, he will succeed.

"I can't even explain it, but Tyler never even seems to think of quitting," says wife Kristi Benedict. "It was something his parents taught him ... to have so much confidence."

An avid mountain biker, Benedict moved to North Carolina after college, not for a job (he didn't have one), but for the terrain. He met Kristi, an N.C. State graduate, while living in Charlotte.

He proposed three and a half months after they met.

Like so many things in his life, he had that eerie confidence that it was exactly the right thing to do.

"It was very typical of Tyler," Kristi Benedict said. "He knew what he wanted, and he knew it was right, so he just went for it."

He was just as sure that his job at Charlotte marketing firm Kothe-Howard wasn't going to work out.

"The job was going nowhere," he says.

So, in 1997, Benedict headed south to his home state of Florida to work for his father's advertising agency. But that wasn't the right fit either.

"He realized that he didn't want to work for anyone else," says Kristi Benedict, who used the time in Florida to pursue a master's degree.

"We spent a lot of time at the bookstore. I'd be studying for the GMAT, and he kept wandering over to the health and nutrition aisle," she says.

As an extreme athlete, he was intrigued by the emerging energy drink market.

He had heard about bikers drinking flat Coke — athletes needed a drink with low carbonation and high caffeine — for a quick burst at the end of a race.

Several energy drinks were on the market, but Benedict was determined to make one he would actually like.

He started with Propel, a powdered energy drink, and filed paperwork to claim the name. Food industry giant Quaker Oats trademarked a flavored bottled water with the same name within two days.

Quaker (now owned by Pepsico) offered Benedict a six-figure sum to surrender the trademark. Benedict took the offer, changed the product's name to ProLyte and hit...
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