Within the past year, sports drinks have taken a health-conscious turn in order to survive in the ever-changing, competitive beverage industry. These electrolyte-filled drinks are no longer a simple rehydration source for athletes; they are now health-enhancement drinks of choice. As consumers want more good-for-you sports drinks, beverage companies have reacted accordingly.
“I would really call it a health and fitness [category],” Erik Rothchild, chief executive officer of WheyUp, Phoenix, Ariz., says. “Year after year, consumers are becoming more conscious about what they are consuming and what they are putting in their bodies. It’s a whole health and fitness lifestyle, with sports a major part of it.”
Vitamin waters and enhanced waters are joining the category as well, which not only broadens it but also increases overall sales for the category. “What is most interesting in the category today is the convergence of traditional sports drinks, functional beverages and enhanced waters,” says Mark Rampolla, chief executive officer at Zico, Oradell, N.J. “The new types of sports drinks are growing in popularity because of the nutritional benefits.”
Much attention also has been given to natural and organic drinks. “The continuing emphasis on health, fitness and nutrition is creating growth in the category and particular opportunity for a healthy alternative to traditional sports drinks that contain more bad ingredients than good ones,” says Nancy Dince, president of Liv Organic, Princeton, N.J.
Despite the influx of alternative products, traditional brand names continue to dominate the sales charts. Whether it is the price per bottle or the comfort of knowing what is in the traditional sports drinks, the powerhouse brands cannot be beat.
Leaders of the sports drink category are once again Gatorade and Powerade, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago. Gatorade dominates the category, as it holds eight of the top 10 spots. Although flagship Gatorade, the No. 1 sports drink, brought in $631 million in sales through measured retail outlets, that is down for the year ending Feb. 24, 2007, by 9.1 percent. Powerade holds the No. 2 spot, growing to $250 million, which is up 18.5 percent from the previous year.
Gatorade’s new release, G2, even made the list at No. 9, earning $23 million in its first five months on the market. Overall, non-aseptic sports drinks brought in a little more than $1.6 billion, which is up 4.2 percent from last year.