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Water to Go

By Bob Hansen

When David Marcheschi was in college pulling an all-nighter during finals week, he had one of those aha! moments of which budding entrepreneurs dream. Craving a jolt of caffeine to stay awake but sick of stomach-churning coffee, he thought: If only my drinking water contained caffeine.

Marcheschi put the idea aside for a few years until he met a beverage company chemist who devised a way to mix caffeine with water sans the bitter taste. Marcheschi later found a well water bottler, and a product was born: Water Joe, 16.9 ounce bottles of natural spring water enhanced with 65 teeth-grinding milligrams of pharmaceutical-grade caffeine.

Water Joe is for sale in Santa Cruz at Coffeetopia (3701 Portola Dr.). Owner Dave Larkin started stocking Water Joe a few months ago. "It sells very well, almost on par with our Calistogas," he says. "Its like drinking a cup of coffee. You can't taste the caffeine in it or anything."

The distributor for Water Joe is M. E. Fox and Company, Inc. Owner Mike Fox says Water Joe falls in the category of a "functional beverage," a drink with some sort of added benefit. To boost sales of Water Joe among Silicon Valley high tech workers, Fox plans to stock the catering trucks that make the rounds of computer companies.

Another product he's looking at is Aqua Surge, bottled water with five times the normal oxygen level. "Its an interesting market," he says.

Marcheschi, who operates out of Chicago, says that the 65 milligrams of caffeine Water Joe contains is well below what the FDA allows. But whereas most people can only stand so much coffee, the amount of water one can drink is virtually unlimited. Its no surprise then that serious speed freaks are going crazy on Water Joe.

"I love the stuff," says Paul C., a Water Joe devotee who's pushing the boundaries of the 12-step program he attends. "I drink it all day like, well, water."

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From the July 3-9, 1997 issue of Metro.

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