Fast-growing Skratch Labs' sport drinks, foods find favor with athletes

By: Kay Rios Wednesday October 7, 2015 0 comments Tags: Boulder, Skratch Labs, Allen Lim, Shawn Milne, Ian McGregor, Meredith Miller


BOULDER -- It began with a secret concoction known only to professional cyclists but -- within a few short years -- their sports drink product has become a national hit, boosting producing company Skratch Labs into the public eye.Skratch_Labs_logoUSE

This year, in its annual ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America, Inc. 5000 ranked Skratch Labs as No. 82 in the nation because of its three-year growth of 3,712 percent. Inc. 5000 also rated it No. 3 in top food and beverage companies and No. 3 in top Colorado companies. 

The Boulder-based company produces several products that have found popularity with a growing number of serious athletes, but its biggest seller is its exercise hydration mix.

The drink originated from a need that founder Allen Lim saw in the professional cycling arena. Lim was working as a sport scientist and coach for the Slipstream professional cycling team (now the Cannondale-Garmin Pro team) as its riders competed in the Tour de France. He saw that too many pre-packaged sports bars and drinks marketed or given to cyclists were laden with artificial ingredients and literally making them sick to their stomachs.Allen_Lim_USE

So, the story goes, Lim, who received his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Applied Exercise Science Laboratory, began making his own. He made fresh food in the hotel rooms using a rick cooker and an electric frying pan for the team cyclists and began diluting their sports drinks to lower the sugar concentration while adding back extra salt and electrolytes to replace what was actually being lost in their sweat.

Then came the “secret drink mix” that uses less sugar, more sodium, no artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors, and offered a clean taste created by using real fruit. Lim did away with the sweet, syrupy power bars and, instead, made savory cakes with sushi rice. The athletes stopped complaining about feeling sick or bloated and, with better hydration and better fuel, the cyclists felt better and began performing better.

Shawn Milne, Skratch Labs marketing director, was a professional cyclist at the time.  “I was on a team for two years with Ian McGregor (now Skratch Labs CEO). He knew Allen (Lim) and gave me some of the initial trial products.”

Milne was impressed. “The products worked. They tasted great, and I didn’t have stomach issues after a race. It was originally a personal product for Allen’s riders, but then other teams heard about it and started buying it.”Shawn_Milne_USE

Word began to spread quickly and the demand extended beyond cyclists and endurance athletes.  Orders begin to come in from race car drivers, rock climbers, Peace Corps workers, and a variety of active individuals looking for healthy food and drink alternatives. To meet the demand, Lim and a team of close friends opened a shop in Boulder and, on Super Bowl Sunday in February, 2012, officially launched Skratch Labs as a brand. 

When Milne ended his professional cycling career, he joined the Skratch team, which has now grown to 17 members. “It’s fun working for this company and I like the philosophy. We had an ‘Aha’ moment when we realized that simple is better. We have the best of both worlds with brains and scientific knowledge behind all of this, but Allen has scientifically engineered our products to be as little scientifically engineered as possible.

“The simplicity results in a better product. All the products are made with that in mind. We are creating what the body wants and the body needs.”

The Skratch Labs statement posted on its website backs that up with its mission statement “to provide people with the inspiration, life skills, and products to take better care of themselves and their families.”

“It’s a mission based on the understanding that taking care of oneself and those we love isn’t always easy,” Milne says. “But that’s okay, because the way we see it, there’s nothing more satisfying and grounding than putting in the time, care and effort to solve life’s challenges.

“This perspective – solving problems and delaying gratification without losing sight of the present – is at the heart of the community’s events, blogs, cookbooks, and all-natural nutrition products that makes up the sometimes-hard-to-define mishmash of activity here at Skratch Labs. Like most things in life, we’re figuring it out as we go. That said, a few things are clear – that food and drink are better when made from scratch and that no matter where we find ourselves in life, that it’s never too late to start from scratch.” 

Skratch Labs products continue to find favor in the professional cycling world. Meredith Miller, a professional cyclist and co-owner of the Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team, is a fan. “I’ve been friends with Allen for many years and was in the group of friends using the product when it was stilled called the Secret Drink Mix.” Products

Miller, who started racing in 1998, still uses the drink because it works for her. “It’s a really easy drink to drink. I’ve been a cyclist for almost 20 years and have tried many different products. This one has the right flavor and a nice consistency. It’s easy to drink on or off the bike, and it doesn’t upset my stomach so I can do what I need to do during training and races.” 

Skratch has other products in addition to the hydration drinks, including fruit drops and cookie mixes that Miller also uses. “Every time they come out with something new, I have to try that, of course. The fruit drops are great. I just flew out to Boston to race and, because it’s a short course, you don’t eat during the race. So I use the fruit drops before the race and afterwards.

“I also love the cookie mix. When I was at Team Camp with my road team earlier this season, we bought a few boxes and had them with our dinner during the week. They’re super easy to make and they taste delicious.”

But it’s more than just taste, she says. “It fits what my body needs. The hydration drink is easy to drink on the hot days when some other products might be too thick. I can always drink this regardless of temperature and it’s really easy to get down, so that’s very important.”

Skratch Labs products are available in 2,500 locations nationwide, including many cycling shops as well as REI, Whole Foods Markets and Good Day Pharmacy.

For more information, visit

Kay Rios

About the Author: Kay Rios

Kay Rios, Ph.D., is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including Colorado State Magazine, 25North, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Business World, Fence Post, Triangle Review, Changing Woman, Style Magazine, Northern Colorado Business Report, ArtLinc and the Rocky Mountain Bullhorn.