UW-P alumnus turns culture into cash with hibiscus extract drink
Amadou Hanne uses hibiscus extract from African farmers to create a product free of caffeine, gluten and high-fructose syrup.
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — When he was an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Amadou Hanne said, he couldn’t find an adequate Hibiscus extract health drink to supplement his daily workouts.
To compensate, he turned to an old family recipe that is now available in the tri-states.
Hanne, 25, unveiled HiFit on Jan. 1. Free of caffeine, gluten and high-fructose corn syrup, the health drink utilizes hibiscus extract from African farmers and comes in three flavors. It retails for about $3 for a 16.9-ounce bottle.
“I’m originally from West Africa, and I grew up drinking this type of beverage since I was a kid,” he said. “My mom always makes it. When I went to school, I tried to find any beverage that can help me with my health. I didn’t really want to drink pop any time of the day.”
If Hanne couldn’t find it, he would make his own, he decided.
“It triggered my entrepreneurship spirit,” he said. “Why not create a beverage that’s made out of hibiscus extract? There’s nothing close to it on the market. The only thing is hibiscus tea, which is very different from the way we make our beverage.”
HiFit’s co-founder and CEO, Hanne has developed the product for two years.
“We stuck with the basics,” he said. “We focused on the health part and, at the same time, making sure it’s tasty.”
Hibiscus is native to warm-temperate, subtropical and tropical regions. It often is touted for its health enhancers.
Hanne, who earned a Master of Business Administration from Northern Illinois University, was at UW-P on Thursday for HiFit taste-testing. He sought feedback at Driftless Market.
“They all taste very good,” said Michael Barner, a UW-P student. “It’s a great price. I’ll have to buy several bottles.”
Hanne’s family lives in East Moline, Ill., where HiFit is warehoused and distributed. He hopes to have the product available in Dubuque soon.
“I think it was really great, refreshing,” said Cena Sharp, Driftless deli manager. “Hibiscus has a lot of health benefits.”
Monie Konecny said she is glad she does not have to order HiFit online any more.
“I love it,” she said. “Ever since I saw it, I was anxious to try it. There are three very distinctive tastes, and all three flavors are delicious.”