Gatorade has long been a leader among sports drinks, those brightly colored drinks designed to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Now rival Powerade is hoping a revamped recipe and new look will help finally knock Gatorade out of the top spot. This won’t be easy.
The new Powerade that is in right now replacing the old version, it boasts about twice the electrolytes of its previous iteration, but also, it claims, like Gatorade’s Thirst Quencher variety. The new formula also includes vitamins C and B12, unlike the old recipe and the competing product.
Powerade’s updated packaging, along with marketing that some shoppers will see online, clearly highlights the differences between it and Gatorade.
But, as with many rivalries in the beverage industry, this essentially boils down to a battle between Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Gatorade was developed at the University of Florida in the mid-1960s and was acquired by PepsiCo ( PEP ) in 2001. Coca-Cola ( KO ) launched Powerade in the 1980s to compete with Gatorade, but the Coca-Cola version never caught up. Gatorade, meanwhile, has come to be associated with winning, as successful coaches traditionally slather themselves on the stuff after a game.
Over the years, as the category has grown, Gatorade and Powerade have revamped their designs and launched new products. In 2021, Coca-Cola acquired BodyArmor, a relatively young but successful company with its own sports drinks. (Coca-Cola first bought a stake in BodyArmor in 2018.)
The department now controls the Powerade Coke brand and is making the changes — and shining a light on comparisons to Gatorade.
“We’re going to be loud about it. We’re going to be proud of that,” Federico Muyshond, CEO of BodyArmor, told CNN.
As early as 2020, Powerade was positioning itself as a rival to BodyArmor, even as Coca-Cola was already invested in the younger company. Working together, “we can now use BodyArmor and Powerade as a one-two punch to beat Gatorade,” Muyshondt told CNN.
“BodyArmor can help us make a big difference in the sports drink category, especially in the US,” Coca-Cola CEO James Quincy said at a conference in June.
Today, Gatorade controls about 63 percent of the U.S. sports drink market by volume, according to data from Euromonitor International. Combined, Coca-Cola’s brands have about 29% of the market: BodyArmor has 14.5% and Powerade just 14.1%.
Still, there is room for growth in the category as customers look for alternatives to sodas and to drinks perceived as “healthier” hydration.
Euromonitor predicts that the $13 billion U.S. market will grow to nearly $17 billion in 2027. Muyshondt believes Coca-Cola will lead the category by this year.
Powerade will need more than a new look and formula. The brand will get more investment and more innovation in the coming years, said Muyshondt, who did not share details but said it could draw inspiration from sports drink markets globally.
“Powerade is a sleeping giant,” he said. “It’s time to put a lot of energy into it.”
As for the new brand, he said the plan for BodyArmor is to reach more customers using Coca-Cola’s massive scale. The two brands complement each other with BodyArmor appealing to people who are interested in health, wellness and fitness and are willing to spend more. Powerade is a more affordable brand that focuses on sports and hydration.
Coca-Cola’s strategy is about more than simply gaining a larger share of the sports drink market. Bringing BodyArmor to market is an example of how it approaches acquisitions, Quincy explained during the company’s annual shareholder meeting in April.
“BodyArmor is a great addition to the branded portfolio because it checks almost all the boxes we look at when trying to acquire a business,” he said. “We believe it has some global scalability and much more.”