Diet drinks fuel growth amid flat sales

After a strong performance for several years, sales of sports drinks are showing some fatigue. The category, which had registered double-digit growth for the last several years, saw sales flatten in 2012. The good news is that Mintel projects the market for sports drinks to grow by 52% from 2013 to 2017.

Diet sports drinks will continue to fuel category growth. The diet segment stole nearly 6 points of market share from regular sports drinks from 2010 to 2012 alone, according to Mintel. Regular sports drinks still accounted for nearly 77% of total sales in 2012, but the consumer research firm believes that continued migration to lower-calorie and lower-sugar versions will drive sales and market share growth for diet sports drinks through 2017.

Pepsi's Gatorade remains the category's market leader. The brand was the fifth-largest beverage trademark in 2012, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. data, and commands about 75% of the sports drink market, while competitor Coca-Cola's Powerade claims around 20% of the market, according to Euro-monitor International data.

In the first quarter of 2013, sales of Gatorade were up, while Coca-Cola's sales of Powerade slipped, reversing a trend that has been threatening Gatorade's wide lead. But the brand still needs to keep an eye on the competition. Mintel's research shows that Powerade and Powerade Zero's competitive pricing has helped to steadily increase sales for the brand, growing its market share in food, drug and mass channels from 14.3% to 23% from 2006 to 2011.

This year, Gatorade re-introduced Thirst Quencher Gatorade Frost in Glacier Cherry flavor. The drink is designed to help rehydrate, refuel and replace hydration that's lost through sweat. Gatorade also introduced a new 11-oz. bottle for its Gatorade Recover Protein Shake with an easy-to-grab shape and twist-off cap.

Looking ahead, sports drinks that contain B vitamins for energy, such as Powerade ION4, could attract energy drink consumers who have grown concerned about the safety of those products. Mintel suggests that increased educational and marketing efforts focusing on the natural energy available from sports drinks could bring more energy drink users to the category. The consumer research company expects future growth in the segment to track with growth in the Hispanic consumer market, since use among Hispanic consumers is high.

The article above is part of the DSN Category Review Series. For the complete Sports Drinks Buy-In Report, including extensive charts, data and more analysis, click here.

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