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SPROTS DRINK FORMULATION & DEVELOPMENT

THE RISE OF SPORTS BEVERAGES

The formulation and development of sports drinks have been driven by a combination of scientific research, athletic performance needs and consumer preferences. Initially conceived to address dehydration and electrolyte loss in athletes, early sports drinks like Gatorade relied on a basic mixture of water, sugars, sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes. Over time, advancements in sports science and nutrition have led to more sophisticated formulations, incorporating a wider range of ingredients such as vitamins caffeine, protein and amino acids. Companies continually innovate to improve taste, effectiveness, and functionality, catering to diverse athlete requirements and market demands. Today, sports drinks are available in various forms, including ready-to-drink beverages, powders, and concentrates, offering hydration solutions tailored to different sports, fitness levels, and dietary preferences.

THE STORY BEHIND SPORTS DRINKS

‘Glucozade’ (shortened to the catchier “Lucozade’ pretty early on) can justifiably lay claim to being the earliest traceable ancestor of the multi-billion-dollar sports drink industry as it launched in 1927. It was created by a British chemist called William Walker Hunter (trading as W. Owen & Son) as a way of delivering quick, digestible energy and fluids for the sick. Its advertising slogan was ‘Lucozade aids recovery’. 

Although the idea was at heart very simple – basically it was an orange flavored sugar water – Lucozade was a big hit and the pharmaceutical company Beecham’s acquired the brand in 1938. With the help of some memorable marketing campaigns, by the 1950s Lucozade was contributing over 50% of the profits on Beecham’s bottom line and had cemented itself as one of Britain’s best-known brands.

Despite all of this early success as a ‘medicinal’ product, Lucozade wasn’t the only one on the emerging sports drink market. With its commercial launch in 1965, that other famous ’ade’ – Gatorade – was introduced for commercial consumption. 

Following a request from Florida Gators football head coach Ray Graves, sports drinks formulation was altered to help athletes by acting as a replacement for body fluids lost during physical exertion. The earliest version of the beverage consisted of a mixture of water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate, and lemon juice. Gatorade is the main player in the market today with an estimated 72% market share in the USA alone, now owned by Pepsico.16% market share is contributed by Powerade, one of the rival brands owned by Coca Cola, that was launched 2 years later than Gatorade.

Early Gatorade was very different from the original Lucozade. The inventor Dr Cade used his medical knowledge to come up with a simple but effective formulation for sports drinks, using specific doses of sugar and salt mixed into water to replace the energy being burned and what was being lost in sweat. Lucozade was much higher in sugar, with negligible salt content, as it was just aiming to restore ‘energy’ to those who drank it.

Water, sodium and calories (in different proportions) are the three main things you need to keep the body going during prolonged activity. These are the bottom-line ingredients a sports drink has to contain to address your body’s needs when you’re working hard and sweating. 

Therefore, sports drinks can be split into three major types:

  • Isotonic sport drinks contain similar concentrations of salt and sugar as in the human body.
  • Hypertonic sport drinks contain a higher concentration of salt and sugar than the human body.
  • Hypotonic sport drinks contain a lower concentration of salt and sugar than the human body.

Most sports drinks are isotonic, having between 4 and 5 heaped teaspoons of sugar per 250 mL serving. Although the exact composition varies slightly from brand to brand, all of the major ‘ades’ (Gator, Power and Lucoz) contain approximately 6% carbohydrate and between 400 – 500 mg of sodium per litre.

FOOD SCIENTIST FOR HIRE AND SPORT DRINKS DEVELOPMENT

There are certain rules when it comes to calling a drink isotonic. We at Food Scientist For Hire can help you with this and are specialized in the development of sports drinks. Do you want to launch the new Gatorade? Then please fill out the form and contact us to discuss your needs!

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