Jonah Reider is a chef, food writer, and entrepreneur. His first foray into entrepreneurship was at eighteen-years-old when he established Pith Supper Club out of his dorm room at Columbia University. Now Jonah’s taking on the CPG industry and challenging 5-Hour ENERGY with Pzaz, a Caffeine Mist for the next generation.
Pzaz is pronounced Pzaz like pizazz. But people get zazzy, zazzed up, buy a tube of zaz. Pzaz has a zazzy world of words!
What is Pzaz?
Pzaz is a Caffeine Mist that contains a blend of caffeine from green tea, electrolytes, vitamin C, and zinc.
It’s for all the moments in the day when you can’t have coffee or an energy drink but need a pick-me-up.
In the energy space, a mist is super appealing because it’s uniquely portable, pocketable, and shareable.
Traditional food&bev products are not as shareable or socially viral – it’s incredibly unlikely that someone sipping an energy drink is going to share it with a few friends.
What is the story behind Pzaz?
I became obsessed with 5-Hour ENERGY because I realized it has the best shelf spot in every single store nationwide and has no real competitors besides copycat brands making the same thing for cheaper.
The product’s revenue has steadily fallen for the past ten years, and anecdotally, not a single person I know had ever tried it or ever will.
I decided to do market research and interviewed thousands of younger consumers to understand why they weren’t buying 5-Hour ENERGY. I also interviewed every bodega person I ran into and they all said the same thing: “I don’t know why this is on my checkout counter. I barely sell it.”
Why is Pzaz a caffeine mist?
Most energy products advertise a melange of random ingredients that claim to give you energy, when in fact caffeine is clinically proven to be the most effective. It’s humanity’s most popular and safe drug for a reason.
While caffeine is incredibly effective for delivering energy, high doses of it makes people jittery and then crash.
The only way to truly optimize caffeine use is to microdose throughout your day, and Pzaz is designed to do this.
Beyond the functional upside of a caffeine mist, there is a social benefit as well. Sticking out your tongue for some zaz is fun, conspicuous, and social. It’s a crazy and cool thing to whip out!
Caffeinated gum or mints don’t have that quality; it’s something you discreetly pop in your mouth. It’s as if the customer is embarrassed about using it.
Pzaz has really strong branding. Who did you work with?
Zipeng was the perfect person to work with. Not only is he very experienced in this space, his personal brand aligns perfectly with Pzaz’s brand, so this made the entire design process super seamless and fun for both of us.
What does the Pzaz community look like?
Pzaz is a world full of zazzy individuals who have a real zest for life!
Energy drinks and shots have relied on the same, boring, out-of-touch narrative of machismo domination, so they have these high-achievers like extreme sports people as their ideal customer.
I’m really interested in exploring a totally different sense of energy, making it positive & inclusive, and focusing on a zazzy journey is way more important than a zazzy destination.
Micro-communities are chock full of zazzy individuals, and I want people who are leaders in their own community to share Pzaz with their friends whether that’s through skateboarding around the city, going to a fun party, laying it out at their library or office desk, bringing it to a concert.
Can one make a cocktail and finish it up with a misting of Pzaz?
I’ve definitely seen folks zaz up a beverage!
You made the strategic decision to not sell Pzaz direct-to-consumer. Why?
I believe direct to consumer is boring and currently unprofitable for low-cost products like Pzaz that are cravable for immediate consumption. Pzaz will be sold at convenience stores, bodegas, third-party online marketplaces, and instant delivery like 1520, Fridge No More, Gorillas.
We can fulfill orders to our community through these retail and digital platforms in a faster, more enjoyable, and cheaper way than fulfilling through our own site.
When we expand to Amazon and Walmart online sales, we’ll be able to serve targeted ads to folks during the checkout process resulting in a better conversion rate than trying to move people through our own D2C funnel.
In the meantime, it’s great fun to watch zaz show up at our favorite bodegas and to see a broad community of zazzy individuals start to integrate it into their own extraordinary lives.
In our stealthy pre-launch tests, Pzaz integrates itself super efficiently into the social fabric of a party or event – with only twenty or thirty tubes of Pzaz seeded into a space, 100+ people are guaranteed to develop some affinity for the brand.
How has Gen Z informed Pzaz’s R&D?
I was shocked at how different Gen Z and millennials view health & wellness. I didn’t realize that Gen Z is the largest consumer of traditional Hershey products like Kit Kat!
Millennials love buzzwords and trendy ingredients – but tomorrow’s consumer is smarter, zazzier, and more fluidly individualistic. They know that organic is now kind of BS. They want simple and effective products backed by straightforward and impactful community brands.
I’m creating a healthy and safe product that has simple ingredients that make sense to customers.
Too many products try to build trust with younger consumers by speaking so much about health in an annoying and inauthentic way.
It was very important to me to have a fresh take on what healthy products can be, but I’m not trying to sound like a doctor while doing it.
What do you mean by having a fresh take on healthy products?
If someone thinks Pzaz tastes bad, I say, congratulations, you have taste buds. Caffeine is bitter as fuck.
I know that Pzaz tastes better than any energy shot out there, but it still has effective active ingredients that lend it a bitter aftertaste. And that’s ok!
I’m just not going to lie to my customer and say it’s the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted -our messaging is about how Pzaz is the most fun and effective way to instantly power up.
Pzaz is fun and has flavors names that reflect that like “Everything’s Peachy”, “Big Apple Energy”, and “Mint Condition”.
You’ve always been an entrepreneur and are already incredibly accomplished. What have you learned as a cook that you apply to being a founder?
[Context: Jonah is a highly regarded cook and writer. He developed an awesome supper club called Pith where he invited strangers into his home and cooked incredible, five star meals.]
Of course, I’ve learned a lot about flavor, but I also learned about how the environment really impacts your experience.
Through my cooking, I’ve realized it’s all about the hosting, not cooking.
You can be a bad cook and be a great host. It’s much more about setting the tone: dimming the lights, putting on music, being calm and confident.
I think my awareness of the power the environment plays in success has really informed my approach in building Pzaz.
The question that I asked myself through this process is: How can I create a product that facilitates an energized lifestyle in a way that none of these energy drinks, or energy shots, are able to do?