Brian Watrous and his former college roommate and track teammate, Daren Myers, came up with the “concoction that kept us revitalized and feeling great all day long” in their own kitchen. Their organic breakfast shake proved so popular with people who tasted it that the buddies decided three years ago they had the beginning of a business.
Today, according to the partners, Rau Chocolate is sold in 500 West Coast locations, including Whole Foods, Sprouts and Ralphs, for about $3.99. The company hopes to add another 250 outlets in the next few months.
When Watrous earned his degree in economics from the University of Connecticut and Myers finished his bachelor of science with a pre-med specialty, the two decided to head west. Back in 2009, they bought one-way tickets to San Diego and Watrous found a job in financial services, while Myers worked as a personal trainer.
The self-proclaimed health enthusiasts describe their creation as “a drinking chocolate with healthy fats, antioxidants and a few thousand plant nutrients. We looked at what is unhealthy about chocolate milk and did the opposite,” Watrous says.
Meanwhile, they scoured the market for “healthy, quick-on-the-go, taste-great chocolate drinks” and say they didn’t find anything without lots of sugar and preservatives.
Not marketed as a protein or energy drink or a meal supplement, Rau is a “vitality beverage,” according to the co-founders.
Watrous says, “It’s similar to drinking a cold-pressed, green vegetable juice.” It’s sweetened with low-glycemic, organic coconut palm sugar and includes theobromine, “which is like caffeine but without the jittery effect. The other side of the coin is what's not in it: high amounts of refined sugar, dairy, soy, artificial colors and flavors.”
The partners say Rau is the first cold-pressed chocolate drink on the market, meaning it maintains the nutritional value of the cacao. They’re especially proud that the ingredients are sourced from farms that “pay a healthy, living wage and don’t cut down the rain forests.”
Myers points out, “We’re a generation that realizes the planet is going in the wrong direction and we are the ones who can do something about it.”
The dark chocolate drink comes in six flavors: bold original, semi-sweet, salted caramel, coconut, cold brew mocha and mint.
The name Rau is invented “just three letters to express the simplicity and the cleanliness of the brand.”
Myers, who’s in charge of manufacturing and operations, and Watrous, who finds new markets, used their savings to get started. They launched the business with in-store demos, asking customers for feedback.
Along the way, family and friends invested and, recently, Greg Koch, founder of Stone Brewing Co., became an investor. A year and a half ago, Rau became a full-time business for the co-founders.
Although the drink currently is available only in the Western half of the U.S., the young entrepreneurs hope to expand east “so our parents can buy it.”
What is Rau?
Rau is the result of hand picking organic, fair trade cacao beans straight from the tree, infusing them with pure organic spices; creating a concoction inspired by the Mayans – naked of all unhealthy refined sugar, dairy, and preservatives. The chocolate drink is designed to fuel a truly clean energetic lifestyle.