Bringing a non-alcoholic drink to market that also has massive health-boosting potential, Quas pivoted its company vision based on data. We spoke to founders Anton Puzorjov and Jessie Fitts about the ways data and their involvements with the DDE Programme helped refine and expand the company’s remit.
Jessie: I am originally from New York, but I’ve lived in Edinburgh
the past couple of years, and have previous experience working in
the health, food, and wellness industry. As well as my Masters at
Edinburgh, I studied for a degree in integrative health and nutrition
– that’s how Anton and I met and we’ve been on this journey since.
Anton: I’m originally from Estonia and came to Scotland in 2012
to do a biotech and business degree. I then went on to an MSc
in Bioinformatics and a PhD in Synthetic Biology. I also have past
startup experience, having previously founded an e-commerce
platform called One Cherry.
Anton: The idea of Quas came from my personal frustration. I stopped drinking alcohol over eight years ago, and there was no decent replacement at social events. I started thinking about a drink originally from Slavic countries, called Kvass. It was the basis of our first viable product.
Anton: Over the last 100 years, people in the industrialised world have switched their diet significantly from a plant-based one to consuming high calorie, low nutritional food. In addition, there has also been an increased use of antibiotics and increased sanitation. These factors have disturbed our gut microbiome, meaning our immune system can no longer be trained properly. This has resulted in a significant increase of non-communicative diseases in the industrialised world, driven by chronic inflammation controlled by the bacteria in our gut.
Anton: We’re contributing to restoring healthy gut bacteria with a cocktail of live probiotic and macrobiotic strains delivered as a delicious, non-alcoholic beverage. We aim to improve the lives of those who suffer from the unforeseen consequences of our industrialised world.
Anton: We’re selling directly to consumers on an e-commerce website - it’s live now. We’re also selling to businesses, and I’m happy to say we signed up our very first restaurant based in Edinburgh, Henderson’s.
Jessie: I now understand the value of confidence. We got things I never would’ve gone for. Anton’s experience meant he knew the benefit of just going for it and putting Quas out there.
Jessie: I think what’s very interesting about Edinburgh and the UK in general, is that there’s an appreciation for start-ups and a recognition where people are willing to invest time and money in them. I think that it’s very exciting and part of the reason why both Anton and I are here.
Anton: The programme and its data focus helped us realise the health impact we could deliver to the world, and we have changed from being a company that focuses on healthy probiotic products as an alternative to alcohol, to a health-first company with probiotic products.
Jessie: The people from the University helped bring us together. Anton and I are at a completely different end of the spectrum, speciality-wise, but here we are together starting a business.
Anton: We want to dig deeper into our product and are looking for funding for our next stage of research. Next is a small-scale data intervention study and trial to see how Quas affects the gut microbiome of volunteers with a variety of symptoms or allergies.