‘The right moment’: Unilever’s Liquid I.V. capitalising on China’s thriving electrolyte drinks sector

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier Electrolyte Drink Mix in lemon lime flavour. © Liquid I.V. Facebook
Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier Electrolyte Drink Mix in lemon lime flavour. © Liquid I.V. Facebook

Related tags Unilever Liquid I.V. hydration electrolytes

Unilever says the launch of its hydration brand Liquid I.V. into China earlier this year came at “the right moment”, citing recent rapid growth in the country’s electrolyte beverage sector as a key factor.

In January, Unilever Health & Wellness introduced three different flavours of Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier products – namely lemon lime, strawberry, and passion fruit – into China. 

Liquid I.V. hydration multiplier
Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier in passion fruit flavour

The products are sold via cross-border e-commerce on Tmall Global and Douyin (TikTok) flagship stores.

The entry into China was said to have happened “at the right moment”,​ as the country has been witnessing fast growth in the electrolyte drinks sector, Seb Zhang, Unilever Health & Wellbeing general manager – China said in response to NutraIngredients-Asia’s ​queries.

“China is the second largest vitamins, minerals, and supplement market in the world and has seen outstanding growth in electrolyte beverage industry in recent years,” ​he said.

China’s electrolyte beverage industry has been growing rapidly. Japan’s Otsuka Pharmaceutical, for example, said growth rate of its Pocari Sweat electrolyte drinks in China was at least five times higher​ than that of the entire Asia-Pacific in FY23.

Other well-known market players include Chi Forest’s Alienegy and Pepsi’s Gatorade.

Against the back of a thriving category, the China National Food Industry Association (CNFIA) is planning to set industry standards​ by laying down technical, manufacturing, testing, and packaging requirements.

“Liquid I.V. has entered China at the right moment, filling the whitespace in the hydration category…Unlike existing players, Liquid I.V. targets everyday usage occasions instead of high intensity sweating moments alone, enabled by our portable format, untapped science – oral rehydration solution and great flavour.

“There is a huge market opportunity for Liquid I.V. to educate the benefits of daily hydration and develop the powder hydration market in China,” ​said Zhang.

Chinese consumers typically consume​ electrolyte beverages as part of their lifestyle, and not only during sports, Dalian-based amino acids and functional ingredients supplier Innobio told us earlier.


Using the Cellular Transport Technology, Liquid I.V.’s electrolyte powder sachets are said to provide faster hydration than consuming water alone, while restoring electrolyte imbalances occurring from sports and activities such as travelling at the same time.  

According to the brand, the technology uses a specific ratio of sodium, glucose, and potassium in creating an osmotic force that “allows water to be delivered to the body earlier on in the digestive system.”

Vitamin B6, B12, C, potassium, niacin, and pantothenic acid are used in the products, although some also contain vitamin D, calcium, and iron.

Double-digit growth

Liquid I.V. has become one of Unilever’s power brands since it was acquired in 2020, contributing to the consistent double-digit growth seen in Unilever Health & Wellbeing business. 

The business also consists of other nutraceutical brands such as hair growth supplement brand Nutrafol and vitamin gummy brand OLLY. 

According to Unilever's full year results for 2023, its Health & Wellbeing business had delivered double-digit growth, with Liquid I.V. and Nutrafol as strong performing brands. 

"In Health & Wellbeing, Liquid I.V. and Nutrafol performed strongly. Liquid I.V. added sugar-free and kids variants to the range, without compromising flavour or function. The brand extended its presence outside of the United States for the first time with a successful launch in Canada, and further international roll-outs planned," ​said the company's statement released on February 8. 

“We are capitalising on this growth by expanding the brand to new markets, with China being the second market outside of the US for Liquid I.V,” ​said Zhang. 

In late March, the California-based brand was also launched in Australia and the UK, further cementing its international presence.

Set up in 2015, the brand has seen its overseas business take flight when it was first introduced to Canada last year.


On top of Liquid I.V., Unilever Health & Wellbeing has also found success in China with its hair growth nutrition supplement brand Nutrafol launched in the country last year.

“Nutrafol entered China last year and has become the top new brand on Tmall Global, and keeps building its credibility in China market,” ​said Zhang.

With this, he said a China team has been set up to accelerate growth for all its health and wellness brands.

This month, Liquid I.V. will also celebrate its grand launch in China via a PR event in Shanghai.

“We hope to increase brand awareness and create social buzz with key opinion leaders. This event will also be a great opportunity to position Liquid I.V. as a thought leader in hydration space via brand introduction and education,” ​he said.

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