AUSTIN, TEXAS — Green tea caffeine adds a boost to brownies and cookies developed by Power Up Foods, an Austin-based startup focused on expanding energy benefits beyond the beverage set, said its founder and chief executive officer, Ilene Chen. The brand’s offerings are rolling out to Erewhon and Urban Outfitters stores this month.
The soft-baked snacks are formulated with gluten-free and plant-based ingredients, including almond flour, organic coconut sugar, organic coconut oil, coconut flour, organic flaxseed and unsweetened oat milk. Products include chocolate chip coconut cookies and double chocolate brownies, plus seasonal items such as pumpkin spice cookies and peppermint brownies. Each single-serve pack delivers as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
“Naturally people tend to associate caffeine with beverages and liquids,” Ms. Chen said. “The whole brand ethos of Power Up Foods is reimagining energy and how we consume it.”
A particular perk is portability, she said, noting, “If you’re a busy mom or someone on the go, you can bring this little snack pack with you and you’re not sloshing coffee around.”
L-theanine, an amino acid in green tea, thwarts the jittery effects of caffeine to provide sustained energy, she added.
Prior to launching Power Up Foods, Ms. Chen held corporate stints in finance and technology, relying on several cups of coffee or matcha during demanding days.
“It was only a matter of time before the lightbulb went off in my head, like, ‘why don’t I combine my daily caffeine with my daily snacks’ because I was snacking on cookies every afternoon anyway,” Ms. Chen said. “That’s how it all started. I needed an afternoon pick-me-up.”
She tested hundreds of recipes, gathering feedback from coworkers, and began selling caffeinated energy bites last year.
“I knew I would regret not taking this chance on myself, and I really believed there was a market out there for my product, so I left my day job at the end of 2021, and I’ve been doing this full time since,” she said.
She added brownies and cookies to the lineup earlier this year, then phased out the original energy bites after transitioning production to a contract manufacturer. Today, the products are available online at powerupfoods.com and in independent specialty shops and corporate offices. Urban Outfitters, which bills itself as a lifestyle retailer specializing in on-trend and vintage goods, represents the brand’s largest retail account to date.“My overarching vision for the brand has been very big,” Ms. Chen said. “I’d like to have Power Up Foods essentially replace a lot of the unwieldly supplements and pills people are taking in really good-for-you, good-tasting products.”