Marina Chianese is taking caffeine substitution to a new level.
Chianese and her business partner, Matt Christmas, worked on their caffeinated yogurt product, JOYO, for more than five years before launching in 2020. The first of its kind on the market, JOYO yogurt is a convenient, nourishing alternative to a cup of coffee.
Made with locally sourced ingredients on a family-run dairy farm, one serving is packed with more caffeine than an espresso shot. The pouch packaging and screw-on cap make it a mess-free, highly portable option for commuters and anyone on the go. “We’re all going to have caffeine anyway,” Chianese says. “This is just a smarter, healthier way to do that.”
Chianese’s background lies in fashion retail and sales, while Christmas is hyper-focused on food wholesale and distribution. After launching in Hoboken last year, the duo began offering contact-free delivery via monthly and bi-monthly subscriptions.
“This is something we want to become a part of people’s daily routines,” Chianese says.
We caught up with the entrepreneur to discuss her product’s origin story and benefits. (Q&A has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
Table Hopping: Where did you get the idea for JOYO?
Marina Chianese: My business partner Matt and I came up with it about six years ago. His brother would have a 5-hour Energy drink in the morning before he exercised. We just thought that there had to be a more healthful way. The idea was to come up with something you can have in the morning, and it evolved to become a little bit of a snack or a pick-me-up.
TH: What were you first doing to get the word out about your product?
MC: Pre-Covid, I ran around to do giveaways and had a pop-up. Our community of Hoboken, where we live, is phenomenal. They’ve been so supportive from the beginning. I have this really cute cart that looks like an ice cream cart, and I would stand out with my daughter. I’d stand at the PATH and by the ferry, and give out like 500 yogurts in 30 minutes. It was really about getting the product out there and connecting with people, because we are the first to market this type of product.
TH: What’s it like being a female-owned company in that space?
MC: In Hoboken, we have a community of women entrepreneurs, and it is so much fun. We all got together every couple of months and shared stories. That’s why I love the community of Hoboken so much. Everybody supports each other, and people just want to see you succeed.
TH: Were you ever a big coffee drinker yourself?
MC: Yes—and as a mom, you’re constantly reheating your cup of coffee. Usually you just give up at some point and make it an iced coffee. Our product is meant to be more efficient. You’re eating and energizing at the same time. You can put the cap back on if you don’t want to finish it. It’s convenient and quick, and you can finish it in seconds. Obviously, you can’t do that with a cup of coffee.
TH: What was the process of creating the product like?
MC: Our first thought was that it was going to be like Red Bull, in that there’s just one flavor. But when everyone kept asking what the flavor was, we were like, “There isn’t one!” Eventually, we realized nobody was interested in the one skew, and that we needed multiple flavors. We renamed the brand to JOYO.
TH: What flavors do you currently offer?
MC: Flavoring was really important to us because it’s yogurt. I think something like a drink is held to a different standard. Right now, we have two flavors: Strawberry and apple cinnamon. Our apple cinnamon is a dairy-free one that’s made with oat milk.
TH: Tell me a bit about the ingredients in JOYO packets.
MC: There are 100 milligrams of caffeine and 800 milligrams of taurine. An average-size cup of coffee is usually 80 milligrams. It’s more caffeine than a shot of espresso. The amount of taurine is the same that’s in a Red Bull, and it brings oxygen to your blood vessels. It gives you a completely different energetic feel than a cup of coffee. The combo of caffeine and taurine is really what makes people feel better. What you see on our packaging is what you get. It’s an extremely clean recipe.
TH: What’s your main goal for JOYO going into the future?
MC: I think now, more than ever, the world is still pretty upside down. We just want to continue getting the word out and getting the product to people. I want people to experience JOYO in their routine so they can see the difference.
TH: Is there anything else you want consumers to know about you and your product?
MC: I think it’s just important for people to hear our story and give it a try. You’re given the opportunity to support something different that is family-run and -developed. Years of blood, sweat and tears went into the product before it was even able to be delivered to someone. If people incorporate it into their lives, they’ll see the difference in how much better they’ll feel.
JOYO, the grab-and-go caffeinated yogurt snack, is available at local places in Hoboken and Jersey City. Chianese and Christmas recently launched monthly subscriptions, so JOYO can automatically show up at your doorstep when you’re running low. Check out their Instagram for updates; visit joyoyogurt.com for more info.Click here to leave a comment