Coca-Cola looks to power sports drink category with new product

by Eric Schroeder
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ATLANTA — The Coca-Cola Co. last week launched Powerade Option, a new low-calorie, low-carbohydrate sports drink it hopes will challenge Gatorade and its offshoot Propel Fitness Water in the growing sports drink market.

Powerade Option provides electrolytes and B-complex vitamins at levels comparable to regular Powerade, but with fewer carbohydrates and 80% fewer calories than Gatorade. Powerade Option, which is sweetened with a blend of Sucralose, Ace-K and high fructose corn syrup, contains 10 calories and 2 carbohydrates per 8-oz serving.

"Powerade Option is an example of how the Powerade brand has driven category growth for the last three years," said Mary Herrera, director of marketing for Sports & Energy Drinks, Coca-Cola North America. "We expect Powerade Option to attract new consumers and increase consumption occasions for current sports drink users. Consumer interest in healthier, active lifestyles presents a significant opportunity for a low-calorie sports drink specifically designed to replenish and hydrate the body."

Powerade Option will be available in strawberry, black cherry and lemon flavors, and may be found in the sports drink section of supermarkets, mass retail locations, convenience stores and vending machines. Sold in 32-oz bottles and new easy-to-grip, proprietary 20-oz single bottles and six-packs, Powerade Option will be competitively priced with other sports drinks on the market.

Coca-Cola has embarked on an integrated marketing campaign that will support the U.S. rollout, including national print advertising in sports, health and fitness magazines, in-store merchandising and promotions, public relations and on-line sponsorship programs. Sampling teams also will hit the streets to offer people a first taste of Powerade Option, with stops at special events in key markets across the country.

The introduction of Powerade Option comes at a time of increasing interest in the enhanced water category. Coca-Cola hopes to cash in on a market that in 2004 saw U.S. consumers buy 57 million cases of category leading Propel, an increase of 62.4% from 2003, according to Beverage Digest.

Propel, a Gatorade product, debuted in 1999, prior to Pepsico’s purchase of Gatorade owner Quaker Oats. Propel is available in 16.9-oz plastic bottles, 23.7-oz sport bottles and 1-liter plastic bottles. Like Powerade Option, Propel contains 10 calories per 8-oz serving, but has 3 grams of carbohydrates per serving, compared with Powerade’s 2-oz per 8-oz serving. Propel is available in melon, berry, black cherry, lemon, kiwi-strawberry, peach, grape and tropical citrus.

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