In the U.S. beverage market, the overall sports drink category is showing that it remains one of the go-to beverages for consumers as its recorded $10.2 billion in sales, an 18% increase, for the 52 weeks ending July 10 in total U.S. multi-outlets, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI). 

“The market for sports drinks has only grown over the past five years, with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic serving as a positive demand shock for the industry,” says Dmitry Diment, senior analyst at New York-based IBISWorld. “With consumers increasing spending on at home products in light of shifting retail spending as a result of the pandemic, items like sports drink benefited. The sports drink market has been one of the leading product categories in the overall Soda Production in the U.S. industry. In 2022, energy and sports drinks are anticipated to account for 11.2% of industry revenue.”

Although much of those sales come from the non-aseptic sports drink segment ― which generated $9.8 billion in sales ― one emerging category is showing that its contribution to the category, though niche, is gaining traction with consumers.


Top nonflavored convenience/bottled still water (individual brands)

1 Liquid I.V. $187,144,757 236.4 49.6 18.3
2 Gatorade $78,952,002 47.7 20.9 -9.1
3 Propel $56,055,346 50.4 14.9 -6.1
4 Nuun $20,073,741 25.1 5.3 -3.7
5 Pedialyte $8,442,106 200.1 2.2 0.7

Category Total* $377,072,338 112.1 100 ---

*Includes brands not listed
Source: Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Chicago. Total U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, gas and convenience stores, mass merchandisers, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains for the 52 weeks ending July 10.


Sports drink mixes recorded sales of $377 million for the 52 weeks ending July 10, representing a 112% increase for the segment. These sales gains came as the segment saw more brands enter the market in addition to consumers looking to utilize refillable water bottles more frequently.

“According to Mintel GNPD, in 2021 we saw a significant increase in the launch of sports drink mixes and 2022 is on track to be another year with a high number of sports drink mix product launches,” says Caleb Bryant, associate director with Mintel Food & Drink, Chicago. “The increased launch of sports drink mixes aligns with the overall growth of the water enhancer category (i.e., liquid or powdered concentrates consumers add to water such as Mio, Liquid IV, Crystal Light, etc.) Consumers are using personal refillable water bottles more often and using water enhancer products for the products’ functional benefits and/or to make their water more exciting.”

Roger Dilworth, senior analyst with New York-based Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), notes that inflation as well as added-benefits are helping the segment’s ascension. 

“As the price of ready-to-drink sports drinks increases, due to inflation, this may influence some consumers to switch to powders,” he says.

In terms of functional electrolytes that extend beyond electrolytes, Dilworth highlights immune support and energizing positioning as differentiators for emerging brands.

Segment leader Liquid I.V., which was acquired by Unilever in 2020, added Hydration Multiplier+ Immune Support to its portfolio in October 2020. Like all of its Multipliers, Immune Support is powered by CTT, or Cellular Transport Technology, and boasts a blend of vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and Wellmune designed to maintain and strengthen the immune system.

Liquid I.V. also has been active in flavor expansions. For example, this past holiday season, it offered the limited-edition flavor Caramel Apple, featuring notes of caramel and a kick of crisp green apple, the company says.


Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier+ Immune Support is powered by CTT, or Cellular Transport Technology, and boasts a blend of vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and Wellmune designed to maintain and strengthen the immune system.
Image courtesy of Liquid I.V.


Energy and supplement lifestyle brand GHOST entered the hydration drink mix market this year and also is taking a unique approach with flavors. GHOST Hydration Sticks launched in May in SOUR PATCH KIDS Redberry and Blue Raspberry. These vegan-friendly, gluten-free and soy-free sticks feature taurine; an electrolyte base made up of potassium, magnesium and sodium citrate; Himalayan pink sea salt; Aquamin; PureWay-C and Senactiv. The sticks can be used pre- or post-workout or throughout the day, the company says.

According to Mintel data, consumers that indicate they are water enhancer consumers, 34% stated that being available in familiar flavors was a purchase motivator for them.

Enhanced benefits

But flavor variety is not the only reason consumers are motivated to purchase sports drink mixes. Mintel’s Bryant notes that 41% listed contains while 35% stated provides “other” health benefits. Other motivators were contains zero grams of sugar (34%) and made with natural ingredient (33%).

Citing Mintel data, Bryant notes that 55% of consumers use water enhancers. Of those users, the following were the top reasons named for using water enhancers:

  • 49% makes water more exciting.
  • 41% helps increase the amount of water I drink.
  • 36% healthier alternative to other drinks.
  • 32% for functional benefits.

As sport drink mixes look for more opportunities to address consumers’ functional need states, experts anticipate the segment will see new products fulfilling those demands.

“They will likely continue to go in the functional direction, continuing to target the usual need states such as relaxation and cognition,” BMC’s Dilworth says.