“In America right now, there are 70 million people who have trouble sleeping,” says Abby Dunning. “50 million are on sleep aids and sleep prescriptions; worldwide, the numbers are very similar.” Dunning is Vice President of Sales for iChill, a product that she and her team hope will serve as a counterpart to the energy shot industry that has consumers zipping through the day long after their natural energy reserves have been spent.
iChill is the brainchild of Greg Figueroa, an entrepreneur whose main claim to fame is the Melinda’s Hot Sauce line he and his brother created 23 years ago. “When energy shots really became popular about two years ago,” says Dunning, “[Figueroa] thought: ‘Why does everyone need to be jazzed up? We need people to calm down and relax. So many people have trouble relaxing and calming down, especially in the world today.’” After a process of research, trial and error, Figueroa eventually created iChill from ingredients like melatonin and valerian root, releasing the berry-flavored “relaxation shot” on the market in late 2009.
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While the market for energy drinks seems unceasing, relaxation products have been picking up quite a bit of steam over the past couple of years. Not that it’s all been coming up roses – other relaxation products like Lazy Cakes have suffered backlash and even the threat of legislation. Dunning likens this to the Four Loko backlash, a product of businesses choosing the wrong way to market their products. “I think that the fear is it being in a food product,” says Dunning. “Lazycakes is a brownie –a lot of kids see it and don’t realize what the effects are. With our product, we really position ourselves as a relaxation shot. We really went the extra mile to make sure our labeling went above and beyond.”
But overall, the relaxation shot business is booming with hundreds of similar products now on the market. “I think people are really realizing the value of sleep, and how important it is to wind down and relax,” says Dunning of the phenomenon, noting that women (pre-menopausal and menopausal women in particular) have become an especially important demographic for the product. “A lot of studies recently suggest that women have more trouble sleeping. Menopause is a hormonal change, and melatonin’s the hormone that helps regulate your sleep – women actually lose twice as much during that time in their lives.” That’s a lot of time and lost melatonin for which, Dunning suggests, a relaxation shot like iChill could help to pick up the slack.
So, of course, we had to take iChill on a test drive ourselves. While we weren’t wild about the taste, energy and relaxation shots aren’t really about the savoring quite as much as the intended effect. To its great credit, we didn’t experience any Nyquil-esque grogginess either before or after. What we did experience? Uninterrupted slumber until our alarm went off in the morning. In short: we’ll take it.