- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 12, 2004

We know bombs and bullets are deadly hazards of war. But bland bottled water has presented the 130,000 U.S. soldiers deployed in Iraq and throughout the Middle East with the more subtle challenge of dehydration.

Since the beginning of the year, a Bethesda company has provided a small number of servicemen and -women with a liquid additive to improve the taste of water, persuade them to drink more and overcome problems caused by dehydration.

Privately held Flavorx Inc. has made the additive available free of charge. Now it hopes to reach an agreement with the Pentagon to supply thousands of soldiers with the flavoring, which was made to mask the taste of medicine and get children to take their prescriptions.

“We’ve done it free of charge so far because we felt we should do it to help out. But if we did for all the troops, it would probably bankrupt us,” Flavorx President and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Kramm said.

Mr. Kramm started the company in 1995 in the back of Center Pharmacy, an independent drugstore in Northwest Washington founded by his father, Harold. The business is a result of Mr. Kramm’s concern for his daughter, Hadley. He developed the flavoring to mix with medication she had to take to control seizures that began shortly after her birth in 1992.

Then he made it available to customers of his father’s drugstore.

Flavorx left the backroom of Center Pharmacy in 1998, and Mr. Kramm is hatching plans to expand by opening a distribution center in Florida as soon as next year. Revenue in fiscal 2004, which ended June 30, reached $6.8 million, the company said.

A 1-ounce jar of the flavoring costs $9.95.

Now Flavorx has 20,000 customers — including chain pharmacies, independent pharmacies and hospitals — and 50 employees.

It one day may count the military among its customers, largely because of an inquiry from a woman who dreamed up a new use for the additive.

When the woman, Barbara Jane Brehmer, saw Flavorx in a Texas pharmacy late last year, she contacted Mr. Kramm and asked whether he was willing to provide a sample that she could send to her godson, an Army soldier deployed in Iraq.

She wondered whether the flavoring could be added to water.

Mr. Kramm said it could, even though he hadn’t intended it to be used to flavor water, and he sent her some samples.

“Basically, everything we’ve sold has been for medicine,” he said.

Since December, Flavorx has provided about 1,500 jars of the flavoring to troops in a single infantry unit, either through Miss Brehmer or directly to her godson, Michael Kochis.

A few drops from a jar of flavoring and a few drops from a container of sweetener transform the taste of water, even while the color is unchanged. The additive can make water taste like root beer, grape soda or other flavors. The company makes more than 50 flavors. It also makes flavoring that pet owners can mix with medication for animals.

The quality of water provided for troops is varied.

“The water we were originally provided was Turkish. … While healthy, it tasted like it had been dredged out of a swamp somewhere. Our water now comes from a different company with a higher standard. We’re hoping the days of low-quality water are behind us, but we keep stocked, just in case,” Mr. Kochis wrote in an e-mail.

Bottled water provided to soldiers comes from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

“There are a lot of different kinds of bottled water, and some are better than others,” said Capt. Laura Ricardo, an Army nurse at the outpatient clinic of the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad.

Soldiers should drink a liter of water daily, she said, but dehydration is common among soldiers because they don’t consume enough.

That causes medical problems.

“A lot of people come in with kidney stones, so clearly they are not drinking enough,” Capt. Ricardo said.

The captain said troops commonly add powdered mixes to water because they get tired of drinking the same old thing.

Drinking soda instead of water can contribute to dehydration because it usually contains caffeine.

Although Flavorx has been available to a limited number of troops stationed overseas, the company is pushing for a formal contract for wider distribution.

“They definitely are interested in it. It’s a matter of getting all the logistics figured out,” Flavorx Chief Financial Officer Woody Neiss said.

Mr. Kramm said the military has asked whether Flavorx is able to make enough of the additive to supply 100,000 people over six months.

“It shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

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