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Flavoured water like none other!

Air Up is a startup from Munich that has developed a revolutionary drinking system that flavours water just by scent – 0% sugars, 0% additives, 100% taste.

Co-founder Lena Jüngst, asserts the concept is both good for consumer health and is a “more sustainable alternative” to flavoured and sweetened beverages.

The drinking system adds taste to water without using any additives. By transporting scent through air and using the biological effect of retronasal olfaction, this brain trick using the Air Up bottle creates an impression of taste that is actually scent.

Thesis brainstorming

Commenting on how the idea first came about, Jüngst and Tim Jäger, CTO and founder, were writing their bachelor thesis under the topic “Neuroscience meets design”.

“At the time, we were watching some TED Talks about neuroscience and stumbled across the so-called ‘retronasal smelling’ and how taste can be transported through the air.

“We immediately had this idea that we might have the opportunity to find an interesting solution to the health issues related to modern diets.”

What if it was possible to trigger the sensation of flavour without having to add all those unhealthy ingredients? 

“We started looking for the perfect project for our bachelor thesis. This led to the idea of designing a drinking bottle that can flavour water just by scent,” Jüngst says.

“When we realised we would be able to provide flavour with no additives at all, that it was more sustainable than other flavoured drinks – the business case was attractive, we simply had to do it.

“The bottle’s interchangeable scent pods add naturally flavoured air to water, which is perceived as taste by our brain. This way, we enable our customers not to consume unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients, but only clear water.

“So, you not only trick your brain, but you also save your body from sweeteners, stabilizers or acid regulators.”

How does it work?

The fragrance-air function can be easily activated and deactivated using a sliding mechanism.

There is a carrier in the pods that absorbs liquid natural aromas, similar to a sponge.

“These natural aromas come from a leading German aroma house and are obtained from real fruits and plants,” adds Jüngst. However, as the flavours are made of natural aromas, they will get weaker over time.

“Our pods are made for at least 5-litres of flavoured water. As our packaging always contains three Air Up pods, you will get at least 15-litres of flavoured water by that. That means 23 refills of our Air Up bottle which holds 650ml.”

The design and shape of the Air Up bottle is made to support the drinking system. 

“There is a slight kink at the top of our bottle that makes it easy to drink with the straw – this creates a unique drinking experience and additionally distinguishes us from other bottles,” notes Jüngst. 

“So, after filling the Air Up bottle with still or sparkling water, you only have to select your favourite flavour and put the scent pod on the head part.”

By sucking on the silicone attachment, a suction is created that transports the water and air from the outside through the fragrance pod into the mouth. This is where retronasal olfaction comes into play, affirms Jüngst. 

As the flavoured air rises from the water, it is perceived as a taste at the olfactory center, the portion of the cerebral cortex concerned with the sense of smell.

Water temperature and scent

When asked if water temperature affects scent, Jüngst replies: “In the case of the Air Up bottle, we always use slightly cold water when we are doing consumer tastings, for example.

“If you are using water that is too cold, you will get a ‘brain freeze effect,’ which would not affect the smell of our pods, but you would be distracted by the pain and therefore not be able to concentrate on the smell itself,” she elaborates. 

“I wouldn’t recommend using warmer water as it’s less refreshing than slightly cold water. So, in general, the retronasal smell is less dependent on the temperature, but the temperature can be used to support the taste sensation.”

Air Up bottles are made of BPA-free Tritan, which is not designed for hot temperatures.

Tritan is a commercially available plastic used to make drinking bottles globally. The company chose Tritan for its bottles due to its versatility, while the robust material makes the bottle suitable for all activities.

Flavours tick boxes

Interestingly, some of the Air Up flavours taste more intense when using sparkling water instead of still water.

All the Air Up flavours follow the company’s launch strategy, which Jüngst says is based on broader trends such as popular culture, flavour inspirations, and whether there is a long-time customer request for a particular taste.

“You can think of this flavour selection process as a funnel. First, we check the market data, the trends and the consumer demands. Then we form that and see which of them ticks all our boxes – like fitting the customer’s request, passing the flavour test, and what fits best in our communication strategy.” 

Expansion plans

Air Up is developing its current product portfolio and thinking about how to combine new materials, colours and flavours with the drinking system.

The Air Up water bottle is currently available in seven European countries – Germany, Austria, Swiss, France, Belgium, Netherlands, and the UK. 

In the future, Jüngst says the company wants to “carry our vision further.”

“Next year, we are planning to be available in more European countries, as well as in the US,” she reveals.

“As far as we know, no one has ever used retronasal smelling like we do to create flavour. The response has been amazing so far, and we already have over a million consumers using our Air Up bottle frequently.”

Source:, see more here

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