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Understanding Electrolyte Hydration Systems

Electrolytes are responsible for facilitating many important functions[1]. Some functions include regulating the acidity of your blood, muscle function, and the amount of water in your body[2]. Dehydration can occur from a variety of ways such as physical effort, being sick with the flu, or even being in the heat for long periods of time[3]. Since the body excretes these minerals it requires more than just water to bring things back into equilibrium[4]. In the market, some of the more popular forms of electrolyte hydration systems are ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, instant powders and tabs, and concentrated liquid electrolytes.

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Pandemic-Driven Purchases

Covid-19 is expected to have significant long-term effects on electrolyte beverage consumption.  In the early days of the pandemic, sport drinks and immune support beverage powders were some of the first items to fly off shelves after the Department of Homeland Security advised consumers to have “health supplies on hand…such as fluids with electrolytes.”[5]  While initial sales increases for these beverage products is mostly transitory, the consumer behavior is not.  When a consumer engages with a product consistently over a period of time, especially one that provides positive and measurable health benefits during a period of health insecurity, there is a high probability that they will continue to use the item even after the original need is gone.  Product developers can seize on this opportunity by incorporating Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) into new and existing beverage formulations.

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A Healthy Trend

What exactly are ORS, and how can they help our health?  ORS are a specific mixture of electrolytes (such as sodium, chloride, potassium, and citrate) and carbohydrates (glucose, sucrose) that, when dissolved in water, mimic the osmotic balance of a human body’s cells.  This enables a dehydrated person to quickly restore fluid while reducing shock to their system.  Dehydration, primarily due to diarrhea, is a leading cause of death for children in emerging countries. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF developed standards for the formulation of ORS solutions.  These electrolyte delivery systems are designed to save lives – and they do so, every day.

The global electrolyte drinks market was valued at $1.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $1.8 billion in the next 5 years, fueled by the increasingly active lifestyles of young Millennials and Gen Z’s.

MARKET DATA FORECAST: Electrolyte Drinks Market Growth, Size, Share and Forecast to 2025

We are extremely fortunate in the United States to have universal access to clean water, making dysentery and the deadly dehydration it causes much less concerning.  However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an established – and growing! – market for ORS solutions.  The global electrolyte drinks market was valued at $1.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $1.8 billion in the next 5 years, fueled by the increasingly active lifestyles of young Millennials and Gen Z’s.[6]

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Formulating for the 2021 Consumer

Traditionally RTD electrolyte beverages have been dominated by two or three major sports drink brands.  However, the market has recently seen some significant changes driven by an increasingly health-conscious consumer.  Artificial sweeteners have been replaced with stevia, sugar has been trimmed down, electrolytes have been increased, and artificial colors and flavors swapped for natural and organic options. Powdered beverage packs and liquid electrolyte squeeze bottles have taken the category by storm, offering consumers portable convenience and a sustainable solution to the much higher carbon footprint of RTD products.  To summarize, consumers are increasingly replacing electrolyte drinks with convenient, concentrated, and clean label hydration systems – a trend we expect to gain traction throughout 2021. 

Consumers are increasingly replacing electrolyte drinks with convenient, concentrated, and clean label hydration systems – a trend we expect to gain traction throughout 2021. 

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Mineral selection is one of the most important factors when developing a new hydration beverage. Let’s take potassium for example. Potassium comes in a few different forms such as potassium citrate, potassium gluconate and potassium phosphate.  From a nutritional standpoint, there are benefits to choosing the gluconate form since it is an essential mineral and also able to be called out on the label[7]. From a sensory perspective, however, potassium citrate is generally perceived as neutral tasting whereas the phosphate form has a salty taste. Flavor modifiers and blockers can be used to mask certain sensory defects in the taste. Seldom are these tools “one size fits all” as they generally have to be dialed in at appropriate levels.

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The oral rehydration category has a wide variety of participants, so market differentiation is very important. One way to separate your product from the pack is to utilize functional ingredients. These can be added in the form of caffeine for energy, zinc and vitamin C for immune health, and melatonin as a sleep aide. Another way is by isolating and catering to a niche. For example, creating a product that targets consumers on the keto diet by removing sugar and adding additional sodium (to combat keto-flu), potassium and magnesium[8]. Lastly, getting the calories to zero enables consumers who practice various forms of fasting, such as intermittent fasting, to consume the flavored beverage and not break out of the fasted state.

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Given renewed interest in health and wellness and the continued decrease in carbonated soft drink consumption, the oral hydration category is ripe for growth in new product development[9]. Blue Pacific’s Food Scientists are highly experienced in beverage formulation in the health and wellness category.  Whether you need organic flavors, natural bitter and salt maskers, innovative encapsulated flavors, pure vanilla extracts, or expert beverage development, Blue Pacific’s Beverage Innovation Team can help take your ideas from benchtop to Top Seller!  Contact us today to Request A Sample or Submit A Project.

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[1] Fluid and Electrolyte Balance. MedlinePlus. 2020.

[2] Electrolytes: Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. 2020. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002350.htm

[3] Provisional Committee on Quality Improvement, Subcommittee on Acute Gastroenteritis. Practice Parameter: The Management of Acute Gastroenteritis in Young Children. Pediatrics. 1996. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8604285/

[4] Jequier E, Constant F. Water as an essential nutrient: The Physiological Basis of Hydration. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19724292/

[5] Baker S. Stockpiling toilet paper, food gives people a feeling of control in a situation that’s out of their control, mental health experts say. Chicago Tribune. 2020. https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/naperville-sun/ct-nvs-naperville-coronovirus-anxiety-st-0313-20200313-62agr5w6mvep3fcm7e4jwy3hnm-story.html

[6] Electrolyte Drinks Market Growth, Size, Share and Forecast to 2025. Market Data Forecast. 2020. https://www.marketdataforecast.com/market-reports/electrolyte-drinks-market

[7] Heaney RP. Phosphorus. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 2012.

[8] Bostock E, Kirkby K, Taylor B, Hawrelak J. Consumer Reports of “Keto Flu” Associated with the Ketogenic Diet. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32232045/

[9] Stevens R. Consumers Seeking Non-Carbonated Beverages. Bernicks.com. 2020. https://blog.bernicks.com/blog/consumers-seeking-non-carbonated-beverages