For a few generations, people who needed to sharpen their mental focus reached for a stimulant -- often coffee.
In the 1990s, Ginseng tea and other Far East herbs got some attention for their reputed power to enhance brain function, and they soon were challenged by the European herb Ginkgo Biloba.
Now, a company launched by three young entrepreneurs and Staples High School graduates has entered a growing market of mental-focus supplements with a new product -- Nootelligence Focus.
The supplement was rolled out a month ago by Focus Now Solutions LLC, which has headquarters at 1140 Post Road in Fairfield.
Nootelligence is a two-ounce shot of antioxidants, amino acids and other nutrients that company co-founder Jeff Moss said can protect the brain and enhance mental functions such as memory and learning.
The ingredients are among a group of natural substances known as nootropics, Moss said, and thus the name Nootelligence. They are contained in foods, but many people either don't eat all of them or enough of them to have the same effect as the supplement, he said.
It retails for $2.99 per bottle.
The company is working to separate its product from those in a separate category -- caffeine-loaded "energy" supplements like 5 Hour Energy, Energy Plus and Stamina Shot, plus energy beverages such as Red Bull, Rock Star and Full Throttle.
In fact, a slogan in huge letters on Nootelligence's website advises, "Don't get stimulated, get intelligent!"
"Our packaging and brand image are intended to differentiate us from those energy-related markets," Moss said in an email.
Even in sweeping aside the energy supplements, however, Nootelligence has entered a crowded field of mental-focus supplements. Among established competitors are FocusFactor, Brain Prep, SharpMind, Organic Brain Support and others.
O'Connell, who graduated a year ago from Boston University, learned about nootropics as a student there. While some students tried to enhance mental focus by taking prescription drugs such as Adderal -- used to treat narcolepsy and ADHC -- O'Connell was interested in a safer, legal and more accessible way to sharpen his focus to study, Moss said.
O'Connell began researching nootropics -- which existed in pill and powder forms -- and eventually came up with the idea of producing them in a more convenient liquid form. O'Connell's longtime friend Kligerman bought into the idea, and the pair soon brought in Moss as a third partner.
None of the three has any formal scientific training, Moss said. O'Connell experimented with different ingredients and dosages, and consulted research available online. The owners tested it and tapped into discussion boards and forums where the nootropics community shares information.
Nootelligence's website lists 13 ingredients, including multiple forms of Vitamin B, green tea extract, ginseng and caffeine, plus several amino acids and the nutrient alpha GPC. They already were approved by the FDA, so no regulatory approvals were required, Moss said.
A "beverage architect" in Kentucky formulated the product, "and they made it taste good," Moss said. It is packaged by a company in New Jersey.
The marketing plan is minimalist, even by entrepreneurial standards, but Nootelligence has capitalized on Kligerman's notoriety as a fledgling NASCAR driver.
Nootelligence can be purchased on its website, and it is on the shelves of about 40 retail stores, including about 20 in Westport and about 10 in Fairfiled. But shelf space at chain stores is tough to crack even for products with fat marketing budgets.
The company has given away free samples on college campuses, used mobile and online advertising and is working to optimize search-engine results, Moss said.
Most marketing mileage has come from Kligerman, who has to focus when he's rocketing around a track at speeds of up to 200 mph.
He has mentioned Nootelligence on ESPN several times, Moss said, has worn its logo on his racing suit and had the product's name on the back of a pickup truck he raced at Daytona International Speedway.
But the racing team for which Kilgerman drove was recently sold, and he lost his spot behind the wheel. So his immediate future in racing -- and his effectiveness hyping Nootelligence -- is unclear.
"He is certainly part of our marketing plan," Moss said, "and he acts as our spokesperson to major media outlets, particularly sports outlets."
For more information, visit: www.nootelligence.com.