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credit: air up
credit: air up

air up- reusable drinking system that adds flavor to water through fragrance – Game Changer Award Winner 2024

A start-up success story that started in Munich with the world’s first fragrance-based drinking system and is already active in over 14 countries – including the USA.

Lena Jüngst and Tim Jäger got started back in 2016 during their product design studies when they dealt with “Neuroscience meets Design” as part of their bachelor’s thesis. As a solution for a healthier life, they both started by designing the first prototype of a drinking system. Based on their research, they developed a completely new technology to add flavor to plain tap water simply by adding fragrance. The way it works: The brain distinguishes between orthonasal (perceived via the nose) and retronasal (perceived via the mouth) odors. While orthonasally perceived odors are interpreted as such by our brain, retronasally perceived odors are interpreted as part of our taste impression. The information thus reaches the brain via the receptors in the nose: this drink with the taste is added-approximately 80 percent of the smell is responsible for the sense of taste.
The product is a specially developed reusable bottle, the pod, the scented ring with the individually selectable flavor is placed on the mouthpiece. Pulling on a straw creates a suction that transports the air from the outside into the mouth in addition to the water, thus creating the taste experience.

More than five million bottles have been sold since 2019, mostly online or in dm and Rossmann stores in Germany. There is currently a pop-up store in Amsterdam, which in a way also functions as a test store in order to be closer to the customer. With its product – an attractively designed bottle with a scent – Air up wants to inspire people to enjoy more flavored water instead of soft drinks.

Sustainability is an important issue: while the long transportation routes from the production sites were initially still an issue, the company reacted quickly and has already relocated 90 percent of production to Europe.

Over the years, many things have been tried, adapted and improved. Right from the start, the air up team was able to convince investors with its idea of drinking more and healthier: Shortly after its foundation, Freigeist Capital and Oyster Bay Venture Capital joined the company. In further financing rounds, the Ippen publishing family, the venture capital company Five Seasons and the soft drinks group Pepsico were among the investors. According to manager magazin, the founders still hold 29.1 percent of the shares. Last year, the scale-up generated a turnover of around 200 million Euro. air up is one of the very few German start-ups that are successful with a consumer product for private end customers.

air up has now been awarded the Game Changer Award 2024 in the newly created “Rising Star” category alongside Hugo Boss “Customer Experience”, the Schwarz Group “Product & Service Innovation” and KONUX in the “Operations of the future” category.

The Game Changer Award was launched in 2015 by Bain & Company and manager magazin and is awarded annually to German companies in three categories. This year, the “Rising Star” category was added for the first time.

Management team:
Lena Jüngst: Chief Evangelist & Co-Founder
Tim Jäger: Chief R&D Officer & Co-Founder
Jannis Koppitz: Co-CEO & Co-Founder
Fabian Schlang: Chief R&D Officer & Co-Founder
Simon Nüesch: CMO & Co-Founder
Christian Hauth: Co-CEO
Patric Fornasier: CTO
Tobias Klostermann: SVP Supply Chain & Logistics

Photo Credit: air up GmbH