It used to be that one hydration beverage dominated the market. Advertised to athletes, Gatorade, the longest-known sports drink, dates to 1965 when a Florida Gators coach looked for a remedy for his players’ dehydration. Popular belief until that time was that drinking anything—even water—would cause nausea and muscle cramping.
What a long way this industry has come.
Now, more and more hydration beverages line grocery store shelves. It’s not unusual to see a myriad of bottles littering the sidelines at sporting events, both amateur and professional.
But what does the term hydration really have to do with sports and functional drinks? What are individuals looking for when it comes to purchasing these types of beverages? And is there anything new—or better—about the drinks currently on the market versus hydration beverages of the past?
What Does Hydration Mean in Drinks?
According to an article “Hydration for Athletes” published on the website FamilyDoctor.org from the American Academy for Family Physicians, most individuals will perform just fine drinking plain water before, during, or after exercise.1 However, if exercise is very intense or lasts longer than an hour, sports drinks might be a good idea. Why? Because the added sugar, electrolytes, and calories can help support your system when it’s working extra hard.
There are other reasons outside of traditional exercise-related ones for seeking out hydration beverages though, says Suzanne Muller, vice president of insights and analytics for sports supplements brand Optimum Nutrition (Downers Grove, IL). According to Muller, there are three main reasons to reach for one of these beverages: “First, daily hydration to remain hydrated throughout the day. Second, sickness support when you get dehydrated from colds, flu, extreme heat, or hangover. And third, to help lose or manage weight through better hydration.”
Hydration Drink Trends Today
Times have changed since the release of early sports drinks in the marketplace. Now, consumers are looking for drinks that support their health by using more natural ingredients, says Wendy Derbak, director of marketing for the ROAR Organic beverage brand (Bethlehem, PA).
In hydration drinks, Derbak says, you frequently see the inclusion of electrolytes—commonly sodium and potassium. “Most often, hydration drinks will use sodium citrate for the sodium source,” says Derbak. She notes that ROAR Organic uses sea salt instead. “ROAR also uses organic coconut water in combination with sea salt and potassium citrate to offer a premium electrolyte combo,” says Richard Bennett, RD, also of ROAR Organic.
Coconut water, Derbak explains, is a very popular hydration ingredient as it is high in potassium and sodium, and has some sugars, all of which play a role in hydration. In addition, ROAR incorporates vitamin C and B vitamins for an added benefit of immunity and energy, says Bennett.
New and Better: Hydration Beverages Now vs. the Past
While hydration beverages have traditionally followed a classic sports drink archetype, that is changing, says Erin Costello of drink developer Imbibe (Niles, IL). “With the rising popularity of hydration-boosting water enhancers, electrolytes have become the main source of this functionality,” she says. Aloe vera juice is also a frequent add-in to hydration beverages, Costello notes.
One trend she’s noticed is consumers gravitating toward products that offer multifunctionality. “Adding gut health support, immunity, heart health, or strength endurance to a product is much more compelling to the average consumer in 2022,” Costello says. “You can expect that more of the current products on shelves and new ones entering space will include some of these benefits in the coming years.”
Hydration Beverages: Looking Forward
So, while hydration beverages have come a long way, there is room for further improvement as consumer demand increases. According to Market Data Forecast, hydration beverages’ global CAGR is 4%. In 2021, the market was valued at $24.44 billion and is expected to reach $32.61 billion by 2027.2 Clearly, this is a market with strong growth. Hydration beverage companies can look forward to a bright, energetic future.
“Hydration for Athletes.” FamilyDoctor.org website. Updated August 13, 2020.Market Data Forecast report. “Global Sports Drink Market By Product (Isotonic, Hypertonic, Hypotonic), By Distribution Channel (Retail & Supermarkets, Online Platform), and By Regional Analysis (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa)—Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2022-2027).” Published January 2022.
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