Lamar Letts created Hylux vitamin water in his dorm room while attending college in 2014 at Northeastern University and it wouldn’t be long before he would become one of the youngest founders to have products sold at Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.
The drink has received support from Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson, former Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Jason Terry, and former Dallas Mavericks Coach Robert Hackett, among others.
“It’s kind of been very organic. We met with Robert Hackett and he introduced us to Jason Terry. Those connections have been made by people really believing in the product, believing in the team and wanting to be a part of it,” Letts told Madison365.
His product launched on Amazon.com last March. Then, Letts became one of the youngest founders to have his product sold on Walmart.com at age 27.
Hylux has ties to Madison, too, with Rashard Griffith, former UW Badger basketball star, and Johnny Milton as members of its business development team. Madisonians Charles Moore and Chris Canty serve as the Chief Marketing Officer, and Chief Sales Officer, respectively.
“It’s challenging to get a nationwide contract when you’re this young,” said Canty, a former athlete, and a longtime Madison resident and entrepreneur.
The drink comes in several flavors including strawberry watermelon, strawberry kiwi, red dragon fruit and pomegranate raspberry.
“There’s a lot of trial and error. I had the nutrients that I wanted in the drink but we experimented with flavor profiles,” Letts said. “Red Dragon Fruit isn’t really a common fruit but people want to try something different. It’s a new fruit, so why not?”
Canty also said the drink doesn’t have caffeine in it so you can give it to grandma or drink it before bed. Personally, he said the strawberry flavors have grown on him.
“I personally like it during the day. I’m not doing high-level basketball anymore. I’ve done it post-workout or pre-workout,” Canty said.
Letts said the idea came to him after an injury ended his career as a student-athlete.
“I used to be a track runner and that’s what I got recruited for in college but during my senior year of high school, I actually got a heart injury (myocarditis) which pulled me out of competition,” he said.
Due to the injury, he needed bed rest for an entire year and had trouble walking around.
“Thankfully, I did make a full recovery but when I was getting back into life and fitness again, my doctor told me that I really needed to focus on my nutrition,” Letts said.
He had neglected his nutrition beforehand and needed electrolytes. Then, Letts noticed a gap within the market for light nutritional beverages.
“I was going to stores, like CVS and Duane Reade. I was going up and down the beverage aisle and I was seeing things that didn’t really have nutrition. It was just full of sugar and calories, even artificial ingredients and colors that were banned in Europe — ingredients that were banned in Europe,” he said.
Letts said he pretty much found everything except for the beverage he wanted. After he saw an opportunity to create a drink that uses better ingredients.
Letts said he’s looked into studies, alongside his team, for some of the prominent nutrient deficiencies people have in the U.S. Then, he created Hylux Vitamin water with the help of food scientists and support from his parents.
“A majority of the U.S., over 90-percent of men and women across all age groups, are deficient in potassium on a daily basis. It’s not something that we regularly have in our diets and when it comes to heart function, potassium and magnesium are key nutrients that affect that,” Letts said.
Now, the 2017 graduate is working to grow the Hylux brand and fan base. Canty came on board at the beginning of last year.
“We’ve been connected through advisers, investors, supporters and friends of the brand. This is a food product so we’re able to get it out to the people and get feedback so we’re excited about that,” Letts said.
Letts said the team has worked with independent distributors to get in different states including New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin.
“We finalized the formula. We’ve built the team and now we’re really working to build the brand and distribution,” he said.