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Gatorade adds caffeine to its lineup with Fast Twitch energy drink

Fast Twitch, from the creators of Gatorade

Source: PepsiCo

Gatorade enters the energy drink category with a caffeinated spinoff called Fast Twitch.

This represents another example of beverage companies blurring the lines between beverage categories, seeking to leverage existing brand loyalty while entering fast-growing categories. Gatorade’s parent company, PepsiCo, has already extended Mountain Dew to alcoholic and energy drinks.

The company says Fast Twitch is designed to give athletes an extra boost before their workouts. The pre-workout powder market is growing, powered by industry leaders such as Cellucor C4 and RSP Nutrition. But few pre-workout drinks exist, and many consumers are turning to carbonated and sugary energy drinks instead.

Anuj Bhasin, chief executive of Gatorade, said about 32 million consumers reject the energy drink category because of its negative health effects. Fast Twitch aims to appeal to these consumers, offering lots of caffeine but no sugar or carbonation.

The new drink is set to launch in February, but NFL players will drink it on the sidelines in the upcoming season under an exclusive league deal. Bhasin said Gatorade worked with the NFL and its sports performance experts to develop the specific formula.

The finished product comes in a small 12 ounce bottle with brightly colored packaging. Although smaller, it tastes quite similar to traditional Gatorade. A bottle of Fast Twitch contains electrolytes, B vitamins, and 200 milligrams of caffeine. For comparison, a 12-ounce can of Red Bull has nearly half the caffeine but 37 grams of sugar. Bolt24, another recent offshoot of Gatorade, contains just 75 milligrams of caffeine in its Energize line, which is being phased out.

“Two hundred milligrams is the right amount to help athletes seek physical performance benefits,” said Matthew Pahnke, senior scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.

Since its inception nearly six decades ago, Gatorade has built its brand on hydration, promoting the benefits of electrolytes and carbohydrates. But caffeine is a natural diuretic, removing salt and water from the body. Therefore, Fast Twitch is supposed to precede the consumption of a more hydrating drink during an actual workout, according to the company.

“We know athletes are going to mix and match things,” Pahnke said.

Fast Twitch will target consumers aged 18 or older due to the high caffeine content, according to Bhasin.

Re-Energizing Sports Drinks

Fast Twitch follows a broader push by Pepsi into energy drinks.

Over the past three years, the company has bought Rockstar Energy for $3.85 billion, launched Mtn Dew Rise Energy with the endorsement of NBA superstar Lebron James, and acquired a minority stake in the beverage maker Celsius energizers for $550 million.

Celsius is a potential competitor for Fast Twitch. The upstart markets his drinks as “fitness drinks” and his marketing features models swinging kettle bells and stretching.

Another challenger also has ties to Gatorade’s parent company. Bang Energy, which recently ended an acrimonious distribution deal with Pepsi, markets itself as a pre-workout or recovery drink. Besides being heavily caffeinated, it touts “super creatine,” which claims to improve muscle performance, but no sugar.

But Pepsi is already the dominant leader in the sports drink category in the United States, holding a 73.2% market share with Gatorade and G Zero, according to data from Euromonitor International. Bodyarmor jumped to second place in 2021 with 11.7% market share, overtaking Coca-Cola’s Powerade. Coke bought full control of Bodyarmor in November for $5.6 billion in a bid to increase its market share.

Changing consumer tastes have led to slower sales growth in the sports drink market, even as US adults are exercising more. Years of backlash from lawmakers and pediatricians over the high sugar and calorie content of sports drinks haven’t helped either.

But Gatorade has staged a comeback, focusing on options with more electrolytes and less sugar, like recent spin-offs G Fit, Gatorlyte and Bolt24. In the second quarter, Pepsi reported double-digit revenue growth from the Gatorade brand.

However, not all of Gatorade’s innovations have paid off. An organic version of the drink released in 2016 failed to take off and was discontinued several years later.

Energy represents an opportunity in a high-growth segment, but it lacks confidence from exercising consumers. Gatorade, on the other hand, has earned the trust of this clientele.

“We found that was the sweet spot to bring a new brand to market, with the distinction of being makers of Gatorade, much like Propel,” Bhasin said.


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