Just over a decade after heading to Canterbury University to embark on an engineering degree, former Napier Boys High School pupil Angus Brown seems to have found his niche, making a health drink to make people think better.

But it's much more than just another health drink for the 29-year-old, whose interest in developing brain cognition improvement and stress reduction drink Arepa was sparked by the anguish of watching the latter-year deterioration of his grandparents' health, one with dementia and the other after a stroke.

Son of career schoolteachers former Napier Boys' High School principal Ross Brown and wife Anne, he finished university with a finance and commerce degree and worked for Frucor in 2011 and 2012.

He will at the end of this month leave the day job as business development manager at open-access start-up, government-funded Auckland operation Foodbowl to become fulltime CEO of AlphaGen, the company he set up for the purpose, now entering the big-money market to go fully commercial and global.


With positive early results from clinical trials at Auckland University's Centre for Brain Research, it has a patent application pending, but is already on the shelves, including at Chantal Foods in Napier and Wright and Co Cafe, Havelock North. With Government-funding support it's been at expos in Japan and London, while Harrods are interest in rights in the UK. America is also in the sights.

The key ingredients are pine-bark extract Enzogenol, a health ingredient produced by Enzo Nutraceuticals and said to support healthy brain activity and reduce stress, and New Zealand blackcurrants, the anthocynanins from which are said to produce several health benefits, including helping people think sharper under stress.

Plant and Food New Zealand research showed the blackcurrants could reduce mental fatigue, he said.

Mix that with two compounds found in Japanese green tea, and juice from Bostock organic Hawke's Bay apples, along with two years putting it into a palatable liquid brew, masking bitter tastes without adding sugar.

Driving its formulation was world-renowned Professor Andrew Scholley, a director of the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne in Melbourne and who is a leading researcher of neurocognitive effects of natural products, supplements and food components.

It was a tough assignment set by Mr Brown, to develop a drink formula using 100 per cent natural ingredients - from New Zealand where possible - and what Mr Brown now calls a "caffeine-free alternative to Red Bull".

But Arepa (Maori for alpha, the brainwave thought to be activated) is not an energy drink, Mr Brown saying it's something that could be used by stressed professionals 20 minutes out from a "major task" to relieve nervousness and stress.