Analyst sees sports drinks polarisation in mainstream push

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New product development Gatorade

As sports drinks continue to make inroads as a mainstream option for quenching consumers thirst, manufacturers are increasingly facing the challenge of catering for both the committed athlete and the casual shopper.

In the last of two part series on the growing sports drink segment, consumer analyst Zenith International suggests that the shift towards mainstream acceptance may have diluted some brands’ image among athletes as a specialised nutrition source.

The analyst claimed that in no longer being the sole domain of athletes, the sport drink shows signs of becoming polarised between products catering for the everyday consumer and those for light and heavy exercisers.

Major industry players such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, which respectively produce the Powerade and Gatorade branded beverages, say that promoting and innovating their products to meet differing needs of the consumer has become a key focus in the market.

However, Zenith suggests that the popularity of many of the major energy drink brands, such as those made by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, has seen them positioned as lunchtime refreshments alongside juices, bottled water and carbonated soft drinks.

It is in this market place that the analyst believes there have been a number of launches targeted at specific segmentss such as what it called the ‘lightweight active person’ with products like Propel fitness water or Lucozade.

These are much more about regular hydration pre, during or post activities such as walking and yoga than their more traditional cousins,” ​stated Zenith in its research.

In terms of new product development, the analyst claimes that even children and heavy exercisers are being targeted by specific brands in the market.

“There are sports drinks aimed at kids, helping to hydrate them throughout their active days –again [these are more mainstream products]”​ stated the analyst. “New product development has been targeted at the more niche part of the market too [such as] Whey up, a dairy derivative drink aimed at muscle recovery for more heavyweight exercisers.”

Promotion push

Despite suggestions that the market for sport drinks has been split between products designed for the casual consumer and those for committed athletes, some manufactures believe they are targeting multiple consumer needs.

Britvic, which has supplied Gatorade on the UK market since 2006 through an exclusive partnership with PepsiCo, said that it believed its sport drink brands have evolved to meet wide consumer appeal as both a soft drink and as nutrition for athletes.

Andrew Richards, sales director for Britvic, said that the commitment to removing artificial colours and sweeteners from the range as of May last year and ongoing research over sports nutrition at Gatorade’s US-based science institute reflected this drive.

“The [company] works with top athletes to ensure Gatorade provides optimum hydration and maximum performance so the brand is constantly at the forefront of innovation,”​ claimed Richards.

In reflecting on the challenges of this duel market, Powerade’s Frank Bracken said that he believed specific communication strategies for athletes and consumers was needed to attract both types of consumers to its brands.

“We take a much more grassroots approach with elite athletes – at times literally talking one-on-one with them in conversation about our product, how they use it, and how it can help improve their athletic performance,”​ he stated. “We also produce products that are only available to elite athletes that we wouldn’t even consider selling in the market because it’s far too specialised.”

Related topics Markets Energy & sports drinks

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