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Go Fast energy drink bolts out of gate

Troy Widgery, founder of Go Fast, stands a top the company Range Rover in front of their building at 1935 W. 12th Ave. in Denver. Maybe that's why Denver native Troy Widgery, a skydiver, has poured all his energy and money into Go Fast energy drink. He's trying to pry his way into a $275 million industry dominated by Red Bull of Austria and U.S. beverage giants Anheuser-Busch and Hansen's.

So far, sales are up for the caffeine and herb-packed beverage, which was launched in November. Go Fast is sold in liquor stores, bars and shops around the state, including The Church, Sacre Bleu, Java Creek and Mondo Vino in Denver.

This year, Go Fast Beverage Co. expects to go a lot faster.

National Distributing Co. today will begin pushing Go Fast to its 7,500 accounts statewide.

Other distributing deals are in the works, said Widgery, whose latest passion is kiteboarding, a hybrid of surfing and parasailing.

"When you were a little kid and wanted to get lifted by your kite, that's kind of what happens," he said, describing the new sport he learned in Hawaii and Mexico.

But Widgery is spending more time these days on a forklift in Go Fast's warehouse. The company is ramping up marketing, and he's out rounding up new capital for growth.

In 1996, Widgery started Go Fast Sports, a clothing company that sells mostly to motorcycle, bike and surf specialty stores.

The 35-year-old Cherry Creek High grad also owns Sky Systems Inc., a 14-year-old company that designs helmets for skydiving and other extreme sports like water-ski jumping.

Sky Systems makes a patented product called Tube Stoe - essentially a rubber band that's used to pack a parachute. Sales from Tube Stoe helped Widgery fund Go Fast Sports, which has since grown about 300 percent a year, he said.

"Because of our involvement with extreme sports, last year we saw the market potential for an energy drink and we wanted one that was better than the current drinks out there," Widgery said. "A lot of energy drinks give you a kick that makes you sort of jittery and you drop off quickly. Ours is smoother and more sustained. Ours has the least amount of sugar."

Most "true" energy drinks include stimulants caffeine and ginseng and the amino acid taurine, Widgery said. Go Fast also contains guarana and ginko. Some stimulate the mind and others the body.

Some industry watchers question whether energy drinks, which sell for $2 a can, are just a fad.

Can they pose health risks?

The nutritional research is inconclusive, but some critics fear the greatest detriment is mixing energy drinks and alcohol because the stimulants can fool a person into thinking they're sober enough to drive.

Widgery said a number of nutritional experts and chemists formulated Go Fast.

Regas Christou, owner of The Church, hasn't had problems with the drink and said that Red Bull and Go Fast sales are strong.

"A lot more people are drinking more of the energy drinks," Christou said.

"Every single egg is in the basket," Widgery said. "I believe in it. The energy market is here to stay."

Energy drinks have been sold in Europe for more than a decade, Widgery noted. In the United States, sales skyrocketed to $275 million last year compared with $130 million in 2000, according to Beverage Marketing Corp.

Widgery expects fallout in the energy drink category because he said only a handful of the so-called drinks actually have ingredients to get your heart and mind racing.

Go Fast is in discussions with an Oklahoma-based bicycle parts distributor, which is interested in selling the drink to its 7,000 bike store customers nationwide.

Widgery met earlier this week with a New York nutritional ingredients supplier who wants to take the product to China.

For all his confidence in Go Fast, Widgery's voice is even-keeled when he talks about growth.

"We want to make the brand grow properly, and not just oversaturate the market," he said, noting the target energy-drink consumers are young and discriminating - those who seek what's on the fringe, not mainstream grocery products.

"The brand has to maintain its soul," Widgery said. "You have to appeal to the "go fast' type of person."




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