Warming the Bench

Nearly all consumers (93%) polled for the 2009 International Food Information Council Foundation Food & Health survey agreed that exercise plays either a great (62%) or moderate role (31%) in maintaining and improving overall health. Entering the market are a number of niche sports drinks catering to those who are active. Claims most frequently hitting store shelves as part of new introductions are

Nearly all consumers (93%) polled for the 2009 International Food Information Council Foundation Food & Health survey agreed that exercise plays either a great (62%) or moderate role (31%) in maintaining and improving overall health.

Entering the market are a number of niche sports drinks catering to those who are active.

Claims most frequently hitting store shelves as part of new introductions are vitamin/mineral fortified, according to Mintel's Global New Products Database.

But what the category is not seeing a lot of are new private labels.

In fact, new introductions are limited to three or four store brands per year, said Krista Faron, senior analyst at Mintel.

“Private label has very little penetration in this category, which is quite different from some of the other beverage categories that we monitor,” she said.

With the backing of major ad dollars, Pepsi and Coke dominate the market with their Gatorade and Powerade brands, making it difficult for corporate brands to compete.

Big Y's store-brand sports drinks are among those “struggling,” according to Bill Eichorn, category manager for the Springfield, Mass.-based chain.

Overall sports drink sales at the retailer are in a similar boat, but when the category rebounds — as it's expected to in 2010 — private labels may be slower to recover.

Since the category places such an emphasis on image, it's tougher for store brands to make inroads, Faron said, especially since so many drinkers enjoy the beverages during activities outdoors, or in a group setting, rather than from the privacy of their home.