The retail strategy is a move by Gatorade to democratize sports science technology it has offered to professional and other high-level athletes for decades via its Gatorade Sports Science Institute. The sweat patches —which Gatorade says represents the first time it will provide everyday athletes “with intelligence, not just products”—comes as competition heats up in the sports drink category Gatorade has long dominated.
Upstarts such as BodyArmor and BioSteel have slowly eaten into Gatorade’s commanding market share in recent years. Gatorade's share of retail sales fell to 67.7% in 2020 from 76.6% in 2015, according to research firm Euromonitor, Crain’s Chicago Business recently reported.
PepsiCo-owned Gatorade in recent years has positioned itself not solely as a sports drink, but as a “sports fuel company.” The sweat patches are part of its “Gx platform,” which includes Gx bottles and pods. The water squeeze bottles are meant to be compatible with pods that include concentrations of electrolytes and carbohydrates to “optimize personal hydration and fueling strategies,” according to the brand.
It’s a far cry from the classic bottles of neon-colored Gatorade the brand has been selling since its founding in 1965 at the University of Florida. But Gatorade must continue to innovate, or risk being deemed outdated by consumers that are putting increasing stock in brands that offer personalized solutions. “When it comes to premium beverages, personalization has become a trend,” says Duane Stanford, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. He cites everything from Coca-Cola’s “Share-a-Coke” packaging, which in recent years has featured can designs with hundreds of first and last names, to the rise of Sodastream, the maker of at-home sparkling water machines that PepsiCo acquired in 2018.
Gatorade’s sweat patch is “one way for them to play in that [personalization] trend while also reinforcing the idea that they have research behind hydration,” Stanford says.
The app and patch do not explicitly recommend Gatorade products, according to a spokeswoman. It generates a “sweat profile” that includes results such as fluid loss, sweat rate and sodium loss. And the recommendations go beyond hydration to include suggested regime modifications including ways to correct over-training or lack of sleep, according to the spokeswoman. The app could also also suggest how much protein to consume at a particular time of day or how much a user should hydrate before a specific type of workout.