Walk into any grocery or convenience store and you’ll see shelves and shelves of different beverage options. Flavored waters, juices, sodas, sports recovery drinks…it can be a little overwhelming making a choice. Turn those bottles around and you’ll find something that might be a deciding factor: the nutrition facts label. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to sodas and sports drinks, allow me to introduce you to d-dad Peter Andoni, creator of Nutri-Twist Wow Water.
When Peter’s son Alex was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven, the family had an idea of what to expect. Peter’s wife Lisa was the same age when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. While the familiarity helped the family cope, Alex’s diagnosis led them to make some lifestyle changes. “We focused on making our household much more diabetes-friendly and in turn, we created a healthier living environment for our whole family,” Peter said. “We tried to focus on products with less carbs and healthier options as opposed to processed foods. We added lots of vegetables and some fruits with lower sugar.”
At the same time, Alex kept up his active athletic pursuits, playing on soccer, hockey and lacrosse teams. With their new interest in healthier food options, the Andonis soon took notice of the sports drinks and juice boxes many parents offered after sports practices and games. These drinks often contained high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and added sugars, so Peter and Lisa discouraged Alex from drinking them. “Wanting to be a normal child, like any seven year old, it would frustrate him and, in turn, frustrate us, as his parents always having to tell him no,” Peter said.
A search for healthier drink alternatives proved fruitless. A friend jokingly asked Peter, “Why don’t you do something about it?” “It was at that point that I felt a life calling,” said Peter. “My background is in the restaurant business. This was the first business endeavor I ever approached without calculating the return on investment or doing the complete forecast. I just felt it was the right thing to do and there was a need for it, because I was living that need.”
What resulted was Nutri-Twist Wow Water, a beverage with about 40 calories and 11 grams of carbs per 10-ounce bottle, in Strawberry Kiwi, Berry Fusion and Tropical Citrus flavors. The drinks are free from high fructose corn syrup; artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners; caffeine; gluten and peanut by-products. They are enhanced with vitamins B, C and D, and electrolytes, and sweetened with stevia and natural cane sugar. Five percent of sales go to JDRF.
“We set out on a mission to create a healthier option,” he said. “We’re trying to use this product to help expand awareness, education and understanding about diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. We want to try to spread the word that healthier decisions today can create healthier tomorrows. We hope that it will inspire other companies to come forth and donate to great organizations like JDRF. That’s really our company’s whole mission and focus.”
Peter emphasized that Nutri-Twist Wow Water is not just for kids or people who live with diabetes. “We believe we’re a healthier option for anybody,” he said. “For example, we’ve seen that the elderly often have rehydration needs too, and often have to watch their sodium intake. Our product can help because of our low sodium content. Plus it’s good for sports preparation and recovery. We also have moms buying it as a healthier alternative for children’s lunches and after-school drinks.”
Nutri-Twist Wow Water is currently available in Cub Foods grocery stores, some local stores and restaurants in Michigan, and on Amazon.com. According to Peter, the Meijer’s grocery store chain will begin stocking the drinks in February 2014.
Community involvement is important to Peter. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for JDRF, Peter’s family-owned Shield’s Pizza chain hosts a golf outing every year, donating proceeds to JDRF. They have also provided food and drinks to the hundreds of volunteers for writer and radio show host Mitch Albom’s 100 Houses Project, and 500 homeless children at a Salvation Army Christmas luncheon. “Rather than spending money in traditional advertising, we’d rather get involved with the community and spend those thousands of dollars into giving away product and helping those in need, and addressing the people that need it most,” he said.
Alex is following in his father’s footsteps, as he donated his time to lend his voice to JDRF Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C. in 2011. He and about 100 other children living with diabetes visited Congress to share their stories and to urge Congress to provide additional funding for diabetes research. “I think it’s a tremendous program,” said Peter. “It helps the kids who are affected by diabetes get involved and try to promote awareness and increase our ability to hopefully make a cure a reality.”
For parents of children living with diabetes, Peter advises education. “Dedicate yourself to understanding what diabetes is, how to properly manage it, and then how to adjust your lifestyle to create a healthier lifestyle for your whole family,” he said. “For somebody who is unfamiliar with the disease, when somebody hears diabetes, they may automatically think of complications associated with the disease. But it’s so important to know that with good control and good management, people can live long, healthy lives. My wife is living proof of that. To see her living in great health, I think, puts a lot of parents at ease.”
I can definitely relate to wanting to find healthy food and drink options for your child, and one that is actually palatable. Peter certainly put his passion for his son’s health to good use! The depth of his community involvement just adds to the appeal of his products. My thanks to him for sharing his story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Peter Andoni received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.