Alexander Zavoloka, Runtime.ggIf you eat right, do you play better? That’s the thinking behind esports nutrition company Runtime.gg. The BITKRAFT powered start-up now has two products on the market (a drink and a meal replacement), and a third on the way. We spoke to Alexander Zavoloka, the Managing Director of the Berlin based company about the development of the Runtime range, how and why they’re catering to esports and why nutrition matters in the space. The company recently sold out of inventory and is aiming to be back in stock by the end of this month. Esports Insider: Tell us the backstory – how and why Runtime was created?Alexander Zavoloka: The idea was to build something which would be both efficient and effective in terms of improving one’s performance in esports events; whether that’s training, playing or even managing. It was essential for it to be esports first, and that’s the background our team has. BITKRAFT is a major investor and we’re based in ‘the esports HQ’ in Berlin.“When it comes to the drink in particular we wanted to avoid the crash that comes with both energy drinks and soft drinks”The development process took fourteen months. The original idea was just the drink, but along the way we came up with the idea to develop a meal replacement too. This was basically our solution for the issues that arise at a lot of LAN events. For example, at the DreamHack in Jönköping in Sweden attendees are severely limited when it comes to food choices. Especially healthy food. That’s why we created Buff Food. Teams too are beginning to realise they need to eat properly to perform at their best. OG for example are seemingly committed to living healthy lifestyles and they’re making sure that they eat right, whilst Immortals have hired a full time chef.“Eventually we’ll support more teams and more players, but we’d never go for just a logo on a shirt”When it comes to our meal replacement, Buff Food, the point is that it offers a healthy, balanced meal that takes one minute to prepare and it can be prepared anywhere. Each pack has 37g of protein, vitamins, minerals, BCAAs for faster recovery, and lots of other things. We currently have two products and we’re developing a third. This’ll be focused on a different aspect; it’ll be a brain activity enhancement product in the form of a supplement. It’ll be called OP but that’s all I can say for now!As for my own experience, I started working in esports in 2001. This was the first time I actually received a salary for what I did. I was an Unreal Tournament player in the early noughties but that game didn’t fare too well in esports, so I switched to journalism. Over the course of the next ten to twelve years I attended over 100 events, providing coverage, doing news, interviews, and building my own news outlets targeted at the CIS. I used to work for Fnatic as the organisation’s Editor-in-Chief, then moved on to Epic Esports Events and created EPICENTER together with a small but talented team. EPICENTER was great fun, I even got to host the second one due to last-minute changes, but I felt like I should and can do more in terms of actually helping people with their goals of self-improvement and performing at their best. Esports Insider: How is it legitimate and how does it differ to other similar products on the market?Alexander: Dr. Lutz Graumann has a PHD in Sport Medicine and Nutrition and he has been training athletes and military for over twenty years. We’ve worked closely with him on the development of each of our products. He has his own lab in Munich where we’ve worked on the development, and part of our marketing strategy will take place there. The aim will be to show people the science and legitimacy behind our products. It’ll be focused not just on our products but on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, working out and why eating right is important for performance in any walk of life, esports included.When it comes to the drink in particular we wanted to avoid the crash that comes with energy drinks and soft drinks. Ours have a steady flow of energy and they avoid the harsh decline, or crash, that comes with energy drinks. We purposefully avoided this sugar high and did things differently.“I see Runtime becoming the defacto esports performance brand”Alongside Dr. Graumann, we consulted with Thomas Kampitsch, he has an MSc. in Biotechnologies and he’s the Head of Research at one of the biggest nutrition companies. As such we feel that Runtime is fairly well backed and we’re selling products that have authenticity; they live up to the claims.Esports Insider: Have you worked with any pro players or teams?Alexander: We’ve started by working with Team Kinguin who were one of our partners from day one. As such the players have given us feedback from the start, as have some other top level players which we’re unable to name! This has been a great help.In time, I see Runtime becoming the defacto esports performance brand. From there I want us to move onto Runtime becoming both an apparel and ‘lifestyle brand’, we want to help players perform beyond just nutrition. We’ve already been sending out branded shakers with our starter packs. Over time I think esports will become more respected for skills such as performance under pressure, reaction time and so on. The mainstream will recognise that the top performers are on par with the likes of F1 drivers for these efforts, and a recent study highlighted this. “When it comes to our meal replacement, Buff Food, the point is that it offers a healthy, balanced meal that takes one minute to prepare and it can be prepared anywhere”As such Runtime will become a brand used in other sports and by people more generally, but they will know that it comes from esports. For now we’re fully focused on developing ourselves and making a name for ourselves in this space.Esports Insider: How have the sales so far gone?Alexander: Well, we recently sold out of our inventory and are now working on replenishing the stock ASAP which should hopefully before June. We now ship to 28 countries but our limited marketing to date has been focused almost exclusively on Germany. We have the home field advantage here, it’s produced in Germany and we’re based here too. There are issues with regulations country to country, for example in Sweden the caffeine levels allowed in drinks are lower than elsewhere. Our certification in Germany means we’re able to ship to anywhere in the EU however. When it comes to the States the regulations are different again, and we could theoretically release an ‘enhanced’ product in the US.One of our goals is of course be compliant with official doping regulations across competitions. We’re now looking towards the French and Italian markets. In terms of marketing we’re working with influencers and streamers. We will be creating content with these, and players too, to showcase the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in esports.“For example, at the DreamHack in Jönköping in Sweden attendees are severely limited when it comes to food choices. Especially healthy food. That’s why we created Buff Food”For example the StarCraft 2 player Harstem approached us and we’ve now worked out a partnership. We’ll be creating a campaign with him as he loved our product, he’s a fan and we prefer this as what we put out will be genuine. This matters and we’d never pursue a person who doesn’t actually enjoy our products. We send them our for testing, we explain their benefits in seminars and if they agree and enjoy them they can become our brand ambassadors.Eventually we’ll support more teams and more players, but we’d never go for just a logo on a shirt. If we were to do this we’d always be engaged in proper activations. As of now, we’re working with some smaller community events and these have been going well. We’ll be going to the Nordic Esports Academy in Finland in June. We’ve been working with Weldon Green, he’s a Runtime ambassador, and he’ll be going out there. We’ll be doing a workshop there to try to educate attendees on nutrition and showcase our products too.If we were to work with a tier one League team for instance, we wouldn’t just send them products and brand their shirts. We’d work closely with them to overhaul their entire lifestyles, we’d bring them to the lab and create personalised dietary and fitness plans for them. We want to actually help the teams and players we work with.