Gatorade Shakes Up the Sport Drink by Going Organic

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Gatorade, the brightly colored sports drink marketed by professional sports figures in advertising targeted at amateur athletes, is introducing an organic version of its brand.

PepsiCo Inc., the maker of Gatorade, said the new product, which will be sold in select markets beginning this fall, would have seven ingredients: water, organic cane sugar, citric acid, organic natural flavor, sea salt, sodium citrate and potassium chloride.

The new line, called G Organic, will come in lemon, strawberry and mixed berry flavors.

“As athletes continue to evolve, we’re committed to introducing new product innovations to meet their varying needs,” the company said in a statement on its website.

Gatorade controls 70 percent of the sports drink market, according to Beverage Digest, but by producing an organic brand, it hopes to cash in on a growing demand for foods considered to be more natural and free of additives, pesticides and artificial ingredients seen as harmful.

Gatorade has already been responsive to these concerns. In 2013, it stopped adding brominated vegetable oil, which was used to prevent flavorings from separating, after an online petition by consumers. Studies suggested the oil caused possible side effects, such as neurological disorders.

The organic products industry in 2015 recorded its largest dollar gain ever — $4.2 billion — for total sales of $43.3 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association. Sales increased by nearly 11 percent, the fourth consecutive year of double-digit gains, the group said.

A Gatorade representative did not respond to an email for comment about the specific timing of the new product line’s introduction, how it differs from its current products or whether the company was concerned about tinkering with a tried-and-true formula. (New Coke, anyone?)

Adam Fleck, a beverage analyst at Morningstar Inc., told Bloomberg News: “In as much as they can focus on the potential to change ingredients without changing the taste, that’s sort of a win-win. But you have to be very careful about alienating your current customers in a bid to attract lapsed customers or new customers.”

Brett O’Brien, Gatorade’s senior vice president and general manager, said the company was responding to a consumer demand. “We heard pretty loud through the locker rooms, through our work with nutritionists, that there is an interest and a desire among athletes to go organic,” he told Bloomberg News.

Lindsay Moyer, a senior nutritionist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which promotes a food system that is healthier and more nutritious, was skeptical about the changes.

Gatorade’s G Organic discontinues using the artificial food dyes found in nearly every one of its other drinks, which is “a step forward,” she said, adding, “G Organic is still a sugary drink — essentially, liquid candy — and organic sugar is no healthier than sugar.”

Each 16.9-ounce bottle of G Organic has seven teaspoons of added sugar, which is more than the six-teaspoon daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association, she wrote in an email.

Ms. Moyer said marketing for Gatorade and similar products had consumers believing they need a sports drink after every soccer or tennis game. “But unless people are doing prolonged, strenuous exercise — like a marathon or triathlon — they don’t need G Organic or any other sugary drink,” she wrote. “For most people, the best ‘sports drink’ is water.”

Gatorade, which is known for its fluorescent-colored drinks with catchy names, like Arctic Blitz and Icy Charge, has long marketed itself as a way for athletes to replenish electrolytes shed in competitions and workouts. It was developed by J. Robert Cade, a nephrologist in Florida, who concocted the drink in 1965 to rehydrate athletes.

The company has also reaped the publicity benefits of football players dumping a large cooler of the drink and ice over their coach’s head — in what is known as a Gatorade shower — to celebrate Super Bowl victories.

While the company has controlled a sizable piece of the sports drink market, health-conscious consumers are increasingly seeking to rely less on ingredients made in factories and replace them with more wholesome alternatives that grow in the ground or on trees.

Organic soft drinks were predicted to rise from 2012 to 2017 at a compound annual growth rate of 4 percent, reaching a market value of $665.7 million, according to a 2013 analysis by the Canadian government of the American marketplace. Organic fruit and vegetable juices were expected to drive this growth.

“Sugary sodas and fruit juice beverages will continue to forfeit shelf space to drinks that promise energy, nutrition and satiety, all while being formulated with fewer, simpler ingredients, and less calories from sugars,” Food Business News predicted in a trends report in January.