Fast Twitch, from the makers of Gatorade
Gatorade is entering the energy drink category with a caffeinated spin-off called Fast Twitch.
It’s yet another example of beverage companies blurring the lines between beverage categories, trying to leverage existing brand loyalty while entering fast-growing categories. Gatorade’s parent company, PepsiCo, has already expanded Mountain Dew to include alcoholic and energy drinks.
The company says Fast Twitch is designed to give athletes an extra boost to their training. The pre-workout powder market is growing, fueled by industry leaders such as Cellucor C4 and RSP Nutrition. But pre-workout drinks are few and far between, and many consumers are turning to fizzy, sugary energy drinks instead.
Anuj Bhasin, general manager of Gatorade, said about 32 million consumers reject the energy drink category because of its negative health effects. Fast Twitch aims to attract those consumers and offers plenty of caffeine, but no sugar or carbonation.
The new drink will launch in February, but NFL players will be drinking on the sidelines for the coming season as part of an exclusive deal with the league. 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. In comparison, a 12-ounce can of Red Bull has almost half the caffeine, but 37 grams of sugar. Bolt24, another recent offshoot of Gatorade, has just 75 milligrams of caffeine in its Energize line, which is being phased out.
“Two hundred milligrams is the right amount to help athletes who seek benefits for exercise performance,” said Matthew Pahnke, senior chief scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.
Since its inception nearly six decades ago, Gatorade has built its brand on hydration and spread the word about the benefits of electrolytes and carbohydrates. But caffeine is a natural diuretic that removes salt and water from the body. As result, Fast Twitch is meant to precede drinking a more hydrating beverage during an actual workout, the company says.
“We know athletes will mix and match things,” Pahnke said.
Fast Twitch, according to Bhasin, targets consumers who are 18 years of age or older because of its high caffeine content.
Breathing new life into sports drinks
Fast Twitch is following a wider push from Pepsi into energy drinks.
Over the past three years, the company 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 emerging energy drink maker Celsius for $550 million.
Celsius is a potential competitor to Fast Twitch. The upstart markets his drinks as “fitness drinks” and his marketing shows models waving kettle bells and stretching.
Another challenger also has ties to Gatorade’s parent company. Bang Energy, which recently ended a bitter distribution deal with Pepsi, markets itself as a pre-workout or recovery drink. In addition to being high in caffeine, it touts “supercreatine,” which claims to improve muscle performance, but no sugar.
But Pepsi is already the dominant leader in the US sports drink category, with a 73.2% market share with Gatorade and G Zero, according to data from Euromonitor International. Bodyarmor jumped to second place in 2021 with a market share of 11.7%, overtaking Coca-Cola’s Powerade. Coke bought full control of Bodyarmor for $5.6 billion in a play in November to increase its market share.
Changing consumer tastes have slowed sales growth for the sports drinks market, even as American adults become more active. Years of reaction from lawmakers and pediatricians about the high sugar and calorie content of sports drinks didn’t help either.
But Gatorade has made a comeback, focusing on options with more electrolytes and less sugar, such as recent spin-offs G Fit, Gatorlyte and Bolt24. In the second quarter, Pepsi reported double-digit sales growth for the Gatorade brand.
However, not all of Gatorade’s innovations have paid off. An organic version of the drink released in 2016 never took off and was discontinued several years later.
Energy represents an opportunity in a fast-growing segment, but it lacks confidence from consumers who exercise. Gatorade, on the other hand, has gained a lot of trust from that customer base.
“We thought this was the right place to launch a new brand, with the distinction of being from the makers of Gatorade, just like Propel,” said Bhasin.