Innovation for bodies in motion

by Allison Sebolt
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Competitive athletes, those who tend to be younger and participating in high school and college sports, are still looking for products to boost their performance and give them confidence, but Frank Bracken, brand manager for Powerade, said there is another group of emerging sports drink consumers.

This segment of consumers is older (ages 25-45) and more calorie conscious, Mr. Bracken said. They are looking for hydration and sports drink benefits without the calories and are more interested in fitness and health than hard-core athletic performance.

"In general, folks are looking for healthier alternatives to (carbonated soft drinks), so they are looking for non-carbonated, lower-calorie, healthier beverages and sports drinks are a natural category to turn to," Mr. Bracken said.

For these consumers, Powerade, a division of The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, has introduced Powerade Zero, a zero-calorie sports drink offering, this past year.

"Sports drinks serve a role — they have electrolytes and they have carbohydrates because that’s what replenishes you and gives you energy to play sports," Mr. Bracken said. "Some of these folks who are aging are more about fitness and lifestyle, so the calories can be detrimental to their cause of trying to work out and trying to burn calories. So that’s why we are expanding the market and penetration by attracting older users into the category by offering them a zero-calorie sports drink choice."

Powerade Zero has potassium to aid muscle and nerve function and sodium to stimulate thirst and promote consumption, which leads to proper hydration. In addition, it has B vitamins to help the body utilize energy sources and replenish nutrients lost during exercise. Even with all those nutrients, it has zero calories.

"We need to expand the definition of sports drinks so it doesn’t mean just electrolytes and calories, it means total hydration overall," Mr. Bracken said. "That may contain calories or it may not."

In the reduced-calorie sports drink market, Gatorade, a division of PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., has the G2 offering. G2, which has about half the calories of regular Gatorade, is marketed as an off-the-court option designed for consumption between practices, workouts and competitions.

Mr. Bracken also noted how off-the-field or off-the-court consumption is increasing.

"The same beverage (athletes) choose when they are competing is often the same beverage they will drink when they are off the court," Mr. Bracken said.

New innovation

Mr. Bracken said consumers of sports drinks have the same expectations of such beverages as they do consumer products in other categories such as technology and entertainment. Specifically, consumers are looking for the latest and most advanced technology.

"Shame on all of us for not innovating a little more proactively and aggressively and bringing new science and new technology to the sports drink product category as our peers have done in electronics or automobiles or entertainment," Mr. Bracken said.

Mr. Bracken said one way Powerade is innovating is by offering a new formulation to replenish more electrolytes. He said research has shown when athletes sweat they lose four key electrolytes — sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium — at a constant ratio to each other. Currently, Powerade only replaces sodium and potassium.

The new Powerade formulation, which will roll out in 2009, also will replace calcium and magnesium and replenish all four key electrolytes at the same ratio lost in sweat.

"It’s true sweat replacement, and the only way we got there is the research and science we’ve done in the last couple years that enlightened us and woke our eyes up to the fact there is a better way to make a sports drink," Mr. Bracken said.

Another up and coming beverage in the marketplace is Muscle Milk, which is made by CytoSport. Recently, PepsiAmericas, Inc., Minneapolis, announced an agreement with CytoSport to distribute Muscle Milk. The drink is a protein-enhanced beverage marketed as promoting lean muscle growth, fast recovery from exercise and healthy sustained energy.

"Muscle Milk further strengthens our product portfolio, providing PepsiAmericas with a strong entry into this fast-growing functional beverage segment," said Michael Durkin, executive vice-president of U.S. sales and marketing for PepsiAmericas. "Adding it to our product offering is a win for our customers and their consumers."

Even enhanced waters are appealing to sports drink consumers. For example, Edward and Sons, Carpinteria, Calif., is introducing Organic Young Coconut Water through its Nature Factor brand. It is made from the clear liquid inside of young coconuts and has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and is low in calories. Coconut Water is a popular beverage in Thailand and is being marketed in the United States as an all-natural alternative to traditional sports drinks.

Understanding the market

Mr. Bracken said the sports drink category is 75% male-driven, and within this consumer base minority groups, especially Hispanics and African-Americans, are significant consumers. The average age for sports drink consumers is 12 to 24. However, there is room for demographic expansion.

"The category is becoming increasingly targeted in terms of demographics," said Gary Hemphill, senior vice-president, information services at Beverage Marketing Corp., New York. "We’re seeing sports drinks for women, for teens and other demographic groups."

Overall in 2007 Beverage Marketing Corp. estimated the total sports beverage market at $4,059.3 million.

"Sports drink growth has been modest this year, but it is still outperforming some of the other traditional categories," Mr. Hemphill said. "People want healthier refreshment, and sports drinks target the hydration need-state, which is important to consumers."

Mr. Hemphill said heightened marketplace segmentation with innovation and more creative marketing will lead to more targeted and specialized products coming to the market.

According to Beverage Marketing Corp., Powerade sales grew to $654.8 million in 2007 from $309.2 million in 2002. Gatorade is still the market leader in terms of dollar sales, having grown to $3,266.8 million in 2007 from $2,010.9 million in 2002. Ranking behind Gatorade and Powerade was Capri Sun Sport at $22.3 million in 2007 and All Sport at $4.9 million in 2007.

According to Mintel International’s Global New Products Database, there were 55 new sports drink introductions in 2007 and 31 in 2006. For 2008 through Dec. 10, 82 new sports drink product were introduced.

More than just drinks

The sports nutrition category is extending beyond just drinks with many food products appealing to athletes and those interested in health and wellness. Forward Foods L.L.C. owns the Detour brand, which offers Activity Biker, Activity Core Strength, Activity Runner and Activity Yoga Bars.

Clif Bar, Berkeley, Calif., has various sports nutrition products, including, Clif Shot Roks, which are pop-and-go protein bites in the size and shape of a grape. Each Clif Shot Roks has 2 grams of milk-based protein.

"There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all for athletes, especially when it comes to sports nutrition," said Chris Randall, Clif Shot brand manager. "Every sport and every workout requires something different. The bite-size nature of Clif Shot Roks enables athletes to consume the amount of protein they want when they want it, whether it’s for post-exercise recovery or just to get more protein day-to-day."

Clif Bar also offers Clif Shot Bloks, an energy chew designed to give athletes a performance boost.

Luna Sport, which also is made by Clif Bar, has various sports nutrition products for women, including Moons Energy Chews, Electrolyte Splash and Recovery Smoothie. The energy chews are packaged in 100-calorie packs and made with at least 95% organic ingredients, and the electrolyte splash has 80 calories per 16-oz serving containing vitamins A, C and E and 80% organic ingredients. The recovery smoothie has 120 calories per serving and has vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, B-complex vitamins and amino acids. It is made with 55% organic ingredients.

"Luna Bar’s dedication to sustaining the whole woman through nutritious food now goes one step further to include nutrition for women athletes," said Alyssa Berman, Luna Sport brand manager. "Luna knows that women have their own way of eating and drinking when it comes to training and racing, which is why we created Luna Sport."

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, December 23, 2008, starting on Page 39. Click here to search that archive.

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