Originally created 05/17/02

Health drink makes splash on course

EDGEFIELD, S.C. - In the 26 years Jariah Beard caddied for the Masters Tournament, he walked miles of turf but never considered consuming any of it.

Grass was indeed on tap for those coming and going at the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship at Mount Vintage.

Visitors were greeted by samples of Shizen Green, Asahi Ryokuken's American version of its Japanese health supplement drink made of green barley grass.

The drink actually is green - dark green, in fact. "Shizen" translates to "natural" in English.

"If it's not appealing to the eye, it's not going in my stomach," Mr. Beard said. "If it looked like orange juice, I would drink it."

During the inaugural Asahi Ryokuken tournament in September, powdered samples of the company's original version of the drink, called Aojiru, were distributed. At the time, Aojiru was the company's main product in Japan.

Dallon Smith, general manager of Asahi's American operations, says many people pass by the table refusing to try the green drink because they tasted it last year. The American version, which will be marketed on television in July, is sweeter and is expected to appeal to more Americans.

"I was amazed at how many people thought it was really gross last year," Mr. Smith said.

At this week's tournament, Shizen Green is heavily marketed. The company hired servers to dress in cotton kimonos and greet tournament guests under an assortment of paper lanterns.

After one taste, Pat Fair, of Augusta, had a few questions.

"You say it's good for you?" he said. "It wasn't bad. What was in it again?"

The company says the high-fiber drink helps those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation and osteoporosis.

"I think it will require a lot of marketing, as far as the benefits, to make it in the United States," said Walt Hollis, of Atlanta. "It's pretty bland."

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or carly.phillips@augustachronicle.com.


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