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Sports drinks scratching surface of mainstream potential - Powerade

By Neil Merrett , 12-Feb-2009
Last updated on 12-Feb-2009 at 13:08 GMT2009-02-12T13:08:27Z

Sports drinks may be breaking through the niche beverage wall, but their future will lie in meeting a variety of consumer trends across the entire beverage market, says the senior brand manager of Powerade.

In the first of two part series on the emergence of sport drinks as mainstream products, Frank bracken told BeverageDaily.com that parent company Coca-Cola had undertaken ‘aggressive’ innovation over the last decade for its Powerade brand.

However, despite launching the sport drink product over fifteen years ago, Bracken claims there is belief in the company that it has only just scratched the surface of what might be possible in the sport drink segment.

Active interest

Along with major rivals such as PepsiCo, which makes the Gatorade brand, and a number of more specialised producers, drinks marketed as meeting demands for stimulation and active lifestyles are becoming increasingly popular with consumers.

Both the energy and sports drink segments have shown strong growth in recent years, driven by demand for natural ingredients that also provide “sustainable, longer lasting energy”, according to findings released last year by analyst, Business Insights.

The report predicted five per cent growth in the sports and energy drink sector up to 2011 as result of changing demand amongst consumers.

Beyond the niche

Bracken suggested that with annual retails sales of $7bn (€5.4bn), the sports drink segment was clearly no longer a niche consumer area, a development he claims has opened up the market to a much wider scope for product innovation.

Taking the example of the group’s recent released zero calorie variation on Powerade, Bracken said that the company had identified opportunity in targeting sub segments within the sport drink market for specific consumer needs.

One such segment currently focused on by the company was the consumer seeking an energy boost, while not worrying about potential impacts on their weight.

“So for [this consumer], the traditional proposition of a sports drink with carbohydrates (calories) is counterproductive,” he claimed. “By providing zero-calorie hydration with the benefit of electrolytes and B-vitamins – you really hit on a true consumer need that the category has previously not served.”

In its desire to continue to refine its portfolio, Powerade says that it hopes to target growth in further segmenting into various consumer needs for sports drink products.

Future focus

Bracken suggests that innovation both in the level of science and ingredients available and new process technology can make it increasingly possible to look at differing needs of young and professional athletes or even fitness minded adults.

“Think about pre, during and post athletic activity,” he stated. “There’s so much more that can be done.”

In terms of future releases for the company, Powerade said it was currently looking to a recent development of an electrolyte system known as ION4 to be included in some beverages.

Bracken claimed that the beverage was being designed and marketed as a means to replace electrolytes in the body at a ratio closer to the level they are lost through sweat.

In the final part of this series appearing next week, BeverageDaily.com looks at how Powerade’s rivals are shaping up in the sports drinks battle and if the industry can maintain credibility with athletes, while catering for mainstream consumer needs.

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