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Austin-based Curly’s launches as caffeinated water brand

Arianna Auber
Curly's Caffeine Water is a Dripping Springs-based brand that has recently launched in H-E-B stores as a source of both hydration and energy. [Arianna Auber / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

The co-founder of the newly launched Curly’s Caffeinated Water came up with the idea for water with caffeine and electrolytes after noticing a pattern at his previous job.

Entrepreneur Matt Allison was the founding CEO of TrendKite, a marketing technology firm with offices kept well-stocked with flavored water, all manner of coffee drinks and other beverages. But he would notice he would start dragging before the workday’s end — and not from a lack of caffeine.

“What it was in most cases was that I was a little dehydrated,” he said. “I wasn’t drinking enough water with all the other beverages we had in the office. I started realizing that I wished someone would put a little bit of caffeine in some water and that would help so much.”

He decided to be the one to do it after tasting some of the caffeinated water options available and not liking the overtly bitter taste that caffeine over a certain threshold can impart on a beverage. There just didn’t seem to be a drink out there that delivered what he was looking for.

Developing the caffeinated water became more than a passion project after co-founder Nate Pruitt got onboard — as the owner of Bell Springs Winery & Brewery in Dripping Springs, he knows the ins and outs of running a beverage business.

Curly’s has 20 mg of caffeine, far less than the typical cup of coffee (which clocks in at about 80 mg) but enough to give you a good kick of energy, according to Allison. The caffeine is added after it’s extracted from organic coffee beans. There are also electrolytes in the bottled water, for extra benefit.

It has launched at more than 250 H-E-B stores across the state this week, after Curly’s was named a finalist for the chain’s Quest for Texas Best competition in 2019. Participating in the contest, which looks for locally owned merchandise to add to store shelves, was pivotal in getting Curly’s to take off so quickly, Allison said.

Originally, the caffeinated water had been branded as Push, but after realizing that name had already been taken by a New Jersey-based beverage company, Allison and Pruitt had to go back to the drawing board. It took a couple of weeks to brainstorm a new one — but once they did, it clicked.

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“I jokingly said, ’Let's call it Curly's Caffeine Water’ because (Curly) was my name in college, and Nate’s eyes lit up and he said, ’That's it,’” Allison said. “We wanted to have a name and a brand that made the product more approachable for more people, making it apparent what it is, and Curly’s really does that for us.”

Early feedback about Curly’s has been positive. People like that they can stay hydrated and feel energized all from one product, Allison said. Because it’s mostly just water, there are also zero calories.

“It just tastes like a really high quality bottle of water, with a low enough dose of caffeine that people don't have to be worried about drinking too much of it in a day,” he said. “It’s low enough they could still have other caffeine products if they want. So far, everyone's reporting that they can really feel the caffeine and have better energy. We’re hoping we’ve created a game changer in the beverage space.”