Sports Drinks: Variety Gets A Sporting Chance

IT USED TO BE THAT IF YOU wanted to stock a sports drink, you had one or two choices: you had your Gatorade, your POWERade, and that was about it. As the category grew, you’d do whatever you could to keep that single cooler door stocked with the Gatorade, and you’d try to force the issue with your Coke distributor in order to get the best deal in exchange for taking on the number-two POWERade.

But things are starting to change in the Sports Drink category – not in terms of major share of volume, but in an emerging set of subcategories that seems to be re-defining the way a shelf-set can be constructed, and one that is stretching the definition of the sports drink all the way from the drugstore to the dairy aisle.

With protein drinks like Muscle Milk providing some of the muscle recovery elements that gym rats once extracted from tubs of whey powder, and coconut waters like Zico, O.N.E. and Vita Coco moving into the realms of the “Yoga Mom” and the intense ultramarathoner and triathlete, the category is developing more breadth. It’s even getting dehydrated a bit, as different product types are moving into the “stick pack” mixable formulation, both from the perspective of start-up PURESPORT and granddaddy Gatorade, which has even moved its fast-growing G2 formula into a pouch.

What’s happening is that athletes and casual sports drink users are beginning to think about what product fits their lifestyle, opening the door to functionality not just as an idea separate from hydration, but one that is incorporated into it. The idea is that one size doesn’t fit all anymore.

“We don’t really consider it a sports drink per se,” said Lee Labrada, a retired champion bodybuilder who is finding growing success with a protein drink called Lean Body on the Go. “It’s protein, and it’s in a category of its own. But it does address some of the big demographic factors that used to attract the Gatorade drinker.”

Part of the reason why a sports drink customer might turn to a product like Lean Body is that the science in the sports recovery field continues to evolve, with more weight being given to the notion that protein can help aid in fluid replacement. Yet another recent study indicated the efficacy of chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery drink, for example, and that notion may bring products like Accelerade back into the fold at some point. Meanwhile, the level of expertise of the athletes themselves is broadening, so that they are able to distinguish the level of caloric intensity that they want, from lower-calorie products like G2 and owater to the protein fortified.

Adding to the idea that functionality is growing to match the importance of fluid replacement is the variety of the product offerings. WheyUp has mixed protein and caffeine together into a potent gym cocktail, while even Gatorade has added the concentration-enhancing compound L-Theanine to its Gatorade Tiger line.

Gatorade is an interesting test case for where the category is headed, in fact: in the past few years it has diversified into a number of lower-calorie offerings, added other compounds and, in the end, lost some sales as the economy has nosedived and consumers have migrated to other categories. It might seem like the brand is expanding – yet it’s also fighting for share. While other companies move in all-natural directions and look at the expanding variety of ways in which consumers seek to prepare and recover from their exertions, the company has rebranded itself with the ever-pervasive “G” symbol, taken a strong legal stand when its integrity was attacked in advertisements from Powerade, and watched as vitaminwater cups appeared in the hands of players and coaches at the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

While that’s still a long way from seeing a bucket of Muscle Milk overturned on a coach’s head after the Super Bowl, it’s enough to maybe think that customers would appreciate a little variety next to – not in place of – the big Gatorade door. Zico. ZICO Coconut Water recently signed a deal with Worcester-based Polar Beverages to distribute its products throughout the region. It was also named “Hot Sports Drink” for ’09 by Men’s Fitness magazine as part of its annual “Hot Stuff” list. According to the magazine, ZICO is ideal for athletes who need to maintain peak performance during workouts and avoid muscle cramps and dehydration. It also mentioned ZICO as a great cocktail mixer with rum or vodka.

CytoSport. Independent bottling company G&J Pepsi-Cola has recently entered an agreement with CytoSport to distribute Muscle Milk 14-ounce ready-to-drink beverages throughout G and J Territory. This new partnership will broaden the availability of Muscle Milk nutritional shakes throughout Ohio and Kentucky. Available in Original, Light and 100-Calorie Light formulas, Muscle Milk® provides lactose-free, high-protein nutritional shakes that supply active individuals with 20 vitamins and minerals plus a complete dosage of “healthy fats” to promote lean muscle growth, efficient calorie burning, fast recovery from exercise and healthy, sustained energy on-the-go.

Whey Up. WheyUP has added a new flavor, Grape Punch. WheyUP combines the muscle building properties of whey protein with energy, providing both the energy to go to the gym and the protein to build muscle in one drink. WheyUP was the Official Sports Drink of the Arizona Rattlers (arena football) and the title sponsor for Rage in the Cage (local MMA fighting) in 2008.

Clif. Clif, the leader in all-natural and organic energy bars has created a refreshing new bottled sport drink, CLIF Quench, a clear sport drink made with only all-natural and organic ingredients. CLIF Quench contains no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. And staying true to the company’s journey toward sustainability, CLIF Quench comes in the most planet-friendly bottle of its kind. CLIF Quench will be available in four refreshing flavors: Fruit Punch, Lime-Ade, Orange and Strawberry Citrus. Starting in June, the 16 oz. bottles will be sold in natural food and grocery stores nationwide, as well as online.

FUBAR. FUBAR’s Health ‘n Hydration formula was originally designed by Special Ops Soldiers for Elite Warriors and world class athletes. This unique health beverage was specifically created for those who require hydration at the cellular level under the most brutal conditions. Each bottle of FUBAR contains a proprietary blend of 100 percent pure coconut water, whey protein, isotonic electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, invert cane sugar and guarana tea extract.

Vita Coco. Vita Coco, the original coconut water brand and one of the fastest growing lifestyle beverages in the nation, recently introduced a new 500 ml size with a resealable cap, available in stores in May 2009.

Cultivating a loyal following from health conscious athletes and celebrities including rock band Fall Out Boy and actress Rebecca Romijn, the brand will soon begin to explore a greater presence in gyms and vending machines. The introduction of the new size follows the recent introduction of a new flavor, Açaí & Pomegranate, in February.

EB Performance. EB Performance LLC, makers of the popular PB & Whey Protein Bites, will introduce its new Whey Juice ready-to-drink (RTD) protein beverage in mid-to-late summer. Whey Juice will launch in Florida Whole Foods Stores and comes in three innovative flavors including: Triple Tea (Red-Black-Green), Triple Fruit (Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana) and Triple Anti-Ox (Cranberry-Apple-Acai). Each bottle contains 15 grams of the highest quality whey protein isolate, three grams of prebiotic fiber and is sweetened with organic agave nectar. Whey Juice contains no artificial flavors, sweeteners or colors and is preservative-free.

Cera Products. Cera Products Inc. announces a new ready-to-drink CeraSport EX1. This product has no added simple sugars or fruit juices; it contains only Cera’s patented blend of rice syrup, essential electrolytes and flavors. A gluten-free product, CeraSport EX1 has a unique carbohydrate base which provides quick and sustained hydration without causing cramping. Cera Products Inc. proudly sponsors 2007 World Champion Mirinda Carfrae, and three-time Ironman Champion Chris McDonald. The new CeraSport EX1 ready-to-drink comes in two flavors, orange and lime. It is packaged in an environmentally friendly 8.45 oz. box.

OhYeah! With the addition of three new flavors, OhYeah!’s 14 oz. ready–to–drink shakes are now available in five flavors. Each milkshake-like flavor delivers 32 grams of premium whey protein with only 3 grams of sugar, is lactose-free, and contains minimal fat. OhYeah is aimed at extreme athletes, carb-conscious dieters or consumers wanting to maintain lean muscle mass.

Big Red. Big Red recently launched ALL SPORT Naturally Zero, the first ever major sports drink to be both specifically formulated for the physical demands of intense exercise and sweetened with stevia, a natural sweetener with zero calories. ALL SPORT is also excited to be the official sports drink of the elite Junior Cycling team, All Sport-Team Swift, as well as the PGA stars John Daly and Bubba Watson, baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays and Hockey’s Trenton Devils.

Krank’d. Krank’d 7-in-1 Body Fuel is a tasty, precise blend of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and carbohydrates to fuel mind and body, quench thirst and provide an anytime boost for anyone. The four Krank’d fruit flavors have just 37 calories per 16.9 oz. bottle. Krank’d has a new look, packaging and marketing materials to enhance shelf appeal and incentives and introductory offers are available to new distribution partners.

PepsiCo. PepsiCo’s Gatorade line has recently added two new brand extensions, G2 powder packs and Gatorade Tiger Focus. G2 powder packs allow consumers to mix the powder with two cups of cold water for on-the-go enjoyment. Gatorade Tiger Focus and has L-theanine (an amino acid naturally found in tea) which, along with carbohydrates and functional sports drink hydration, helps promote mental focus. The reformulation was inspired by Tiger Woods’ legendary mental toughness, and the product was designed to help athletes stay at the top of their game, both physically and mentally. Gatorade Tiger Focus has half the calories and 25 percent more electrolytes compared to Gatorade Thirst Quencher.

owater. owater continues to revolutionize the sports drink with its three lines of healthy, natural electrolyte drinks: infused owater, unsweetened owater and sport owater. This spring, owater has invited hundreds of their athletic fans to participate in the marketing of the brand by incorporating their images and inspirational stories on to owater labels, on the owater website and in the company’s advertising. owater will continue to share new stories throughout the year, and will tie local in-store promotions and events to these athletes.

EAS. EAS has a new shake that just hit the market in April. New EAS Myoplex Strength Formula shakes from Abbott Nutrition provide a convenient, delicious way for fitness enthusiasts to get needed protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals following vigorous activity or a workout. EAS Myoplex shakes are now available with a contemporary new 14 oz. re-closable plastic bottle. In addition, the EAS brand has made sports nutrition even more convenient by expanding their distribution to include the coolers of select convenience stores, beginning in May 2009. EAS Myoplex Strength Formula shakes are low in fat are available in Chocolate Cream, Vanilla Cream, Strawberry Cream and Banana Cream. All of the flavors feature 25 grams of high-quality protein, carbohydrates and a mix of 23 vitamins and minerals.

AquaGenus. AquaGenus has announced the launch of AquaHydrate, the first high-performance sports water designed for ultimate hydration. AquaHydrate is made by enhancing ultra-pure water with three of the most widely acclaimed hydration-boosting and recovery technologies – alkaline pH of 9, ionic minerals, and micro-clustering – all combined for the first time in a premium bottle water. AquaGenus also announced an exclusive agreement with Trace Minerals Research (TMR) — a leader in the natural foods movement — to include their all-natural, ionic minerals in AquaHydrate.

Dr. Tim’s. Dr. Tim’s has launched an all-natural sport beverage, ISO-5. This product uses certified-organic coconut water, and no artificial sweeteners, HFCS or artificial colors. The product now comes in a 12 oz. bottle. ISO-5 is launching in Bally Total Fitness, Harmon’s, Select Albertsons, and other fine retailers.

Hydro One. Joint Health is a patent pending, all natural, low calorie formula in the Hydro One portfolio of functional beverages that has been specifically development by scientists to help support joint health and provide the necessary building blocks of cartilage. Joint health has been formulated with the active consumer in mind and is packed with the 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1200 mg of chondroitin sulfate. This great testing beverage also contains the vitamins and nutrients necessary to help protect cells from oxidative damage, help decrease joint pain and stiffness, and help improve stiffness and joint mobility.

Combine Drinks, Inc. The very competitive category of sports drinks is getting set to add yet another player, Combine Drinks, Inc. is set to introduce a brand that will compete with the current market leaders: Combine Sports Drink. The name Combine refers to athletic combines held in all sports, including football, basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball, hockey and even golf. Most noted of all combines is the annual NFL Combine which makes reference to the NFL draft. With a tagline of “We Re-hydrate The Nation,” Combine products will be available in four different new flavors in stores in July.

PureSport. Launched in July 2008, Pure Sport took center stage at the Beijing Olympics thanks to Olympic gold medalists Michael Phelps, Brendan Hansen, Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol and Nastia Liukin, all of whom made public the key role that PureSport played in their Olympic training programs. To meet the growing consumer demand for the product, PureSport has signed a national distribution deal with Sports Authority, the nation’s preeminent full-line sporting goods chain. PureSport Workout and Recovery formulations are available in grape, fruit punch, lemon-lime and banana-berry.