Gatorade created the category of sports drinks, which it still leads today, dominating the overallFDM sports drink market by 77 percent, according to some estimates.
That being said, it has some powerful—and growing—competition, in the vitamin water and pre-and post-workout drink field, including Glaceau’s vitaminwater, which has a nearly 10 percent market share among bottled waters.
According to data provided to Natural Products INSIDER for this story from SPINS, as a category enhanced waters are up 10.8 percent over the last 52 weeks in the natural and multi-outlet channels. In the natural channel, enhanced waters are up 26 percent and refrigerated functional beverages are up 17.7 percent.
However, this commentary is not so much about the market-since they are all, at the end of the day, functional, good-for-you beverages—but about taste and innovation, two areas in which many of the most exciting things are happening. (Also, have a strong backstory doesn’t hurt.)
Read on as I go from natural products industry veteran to consumer.
One of the coolest, innovative and best-tasting beverages I have ever come across is Karma® Wellness Water (drinkkarma.com).
“The driving force behind Karma is the fact that water-soluble vitamins lose their potency while sitting in water or when they are exposed to moisture,” according to the company. “Additionally, those vitamins suffer degradation when they are subjected to UV rays, oxygen, or heat. The loss of strength is greater when the vitamin contents are spread across the full contents of bottled beverages, causing premixed vitamin drinks to lose their potency over time. The supplemental information printed on most premixed vitamin drinks is based on the ingredients at the time of bottling, not at the time of consumption.”
The company whose advisors include Dr. Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Dr. Melina B. Jampolis and Dr. Michael D. Maloney uses its own proprietary KarmaCap Technology to “keep vitamins and other essential ingredients protected and separate from water until it’s time to drink.” The theory is that by “introducing the vitamins only seconds or minutes from actual consumption, it optimizes the effectiveness of the nutrient-rich ingredients in Karma.” The cap uses opaque plastic and a UV blocker to reduce the vitamins’ exposure to the elements; the packaging has a hermetic seal between the cap and base, “ensuring freshness and delivering maximum vitamin potency.”
With 110 percent of the recommended levels of vitamins A, D, E, niacin, B6, B12 and pantothenic acid, along with electrolytes and 50 mg of caffeine, the water used is pure spring water from Vermont. The formulations fit into the categories of Mind (sharper thinking), Body (fitness accelerator), Spirit (mood elevator), Balance (immunity booster) and Vitality (healthy hydration).
Takeaway: I loved pressing the button on the cap to release the nutrients! After shaking and then pouring the chilled beverage into my steel drink bottle, along with some ice, I was ready to hit the gym. Great tasting, fun, innovative, and cool.
Next on the hit parade is WTRMLN WTR (watermelon water). “Your post-exercise muscles just got a new, delicious remedy,” notes the company. “WTRMLN WTR has a rich source of an amino acid called L-citrulline, which helps boost blood flow, so that your muscles get the oxygen they need to repair faster. Adding nutrient-dense WTRMLN WTR to your pre-workout regime could help you bounce back from a tough workout and have you doing squats again in no time.”
“WTRMLN WTR has everything you need to refuel, plus performance-enhancing benefits that will improve your overall health and fitness in the long run,” according to the company. “It also tastes just as sweet as it sounds, without the added sugar of drinks like Gatorade.”
Takeaway: Rich in potassium, vitamins A and C, lycopene and magnesium, the product tastes delicious, very different from the super-potent, concentrated flavors of many other brands.
Next up? Youthtopia™ Beverages Alley Oop™ drinks (youthtopiabevs.com) are said, by the company, to “represent a new line of better-for-you hydration drinks designed for active youth, teens, and young adults (10 to 24 years old). Developed by a health- and fitness-inspired ophthalmologist, Alley Oop™ is low-calorie, low-sugar, caffeine-free, gluten-free, vitamin enhanced, and formulated to naturally hydrate and replenish electrolytes lost during regular and aggressive activities.”
With only 40 calories per 16-oz. serving, and 10 grams of sugar, the drink has calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, all natural flavors and no preservatives, Alley Oop™ is the first beverage introduced by Youthtopia™ Beverages and comes in three flavors: Citrus Grind, Slam Punch, and Strawberry Mango.
Takeaway: Although I may be far from 24 years of age, I enjoyed the samples very much, and so did my daughter, Natalia, who is in the target age group! It has an attractive price point of $1.99 SRP, to boot.
Next? Enter: FLUROwater (http://flurowater.com/), which, according to the company, is an “innovative nutrientinfused bottled water company that targets health conscious consumers who value natural wellness products and beverages. FLUROwater provides consumers with a healthier alternative to sodas, juices, and other sweetened beverages.”
The company adds: “FLUROwater’s sugar-free, preservative-free, and naturally flavored formula is aimed to benefit an individual’s overall health, without the bitter taste of vitamins or sugars of competing brands.”
Developed by Todd O’Gara while studying at the University of Sydney, FLUROwater was initially designed to help aid those “in dire situations by providing proper nutrition and clean water.”
After completing dental residency in South America in 2010, Dr. O’Gara “credits saving the life of a six-year old girl as the driving force behind the evolution of FLUROwater into a nutrient-infused bottled water. In fact, Dr. O’Gara first distributed FLUROwater internationally and worked with foreign governments to supply clean nutrient-infused water to communities in need.”
“Due to the rising rates of obesity and diabetes in America, Dr. O’Gara decided to launch FLUROwater domestically for everyone to enjoy,” notes the company.
Takeaway: I enjoyed this product! The story behind the brand is really cool, as well.
Other popular offerings include Glaceau vitaminwater® and Powerade®. These CocaCola brands offer a wide variety of flavors with colors and messaging that appeal to young people, weekend athletes, and more.
In fact, vitaminwater is committed to Vitamin Angels, and has been a big supporter of that excellent organization and the people around the world who it helps, especially those in areas prone to drought and compromised water supplies.
So, what’s the overall takeaway?
I am very encouraged by the amazing innovation in enhanced waters and their sports drink brethren. While some brands may find a more welcoming home in the mass market (such as those with sucralose), the days of chemical-tasting, yucky enhanced waters are numbered, if the products I sampled are any example. My thanks to all of the brands mentioned above for providing samples for us to try.