I read "First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon" earlier this year. It's a quick easy read on the birth and history of Gatorade through 2005. The book is a valuable read for any marketer and is full of useful information for me as a marketer at Red Bull. I see many similarities in how Gatorade successfully created the Isotonic category and how Red Bull created the Energy category.
Many passages in the book grabbed me. One of them is was the following description regarding Gatorade considering changes to product formulation:
Although its Performance Series, which is directed at high-intensity athletes, has products that include vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, and protein, the Gatorade the general consumer sees has never included the latest ingredients of the moment - such as creatine, chromium picolinate, ephedra, and taurine.
Gatorade might have been even more popular if its marketers had introduced a special Gatorade with a popular supplement in it, but by not doing that, they avoided risking exposure when that supplement was phased out for the next latest thing. Since Gatorade stands for the ultimate in sweat replenishment, its brand managers have to distinguish the fads from the future."
Gatorade is "the ultimate in sweat replenishment". Cool. Gatorade is about hydration. That's a focused and defensible functional position. The statement was probably a nice filter to use when determining if/how/when to change the product formula. If an ingredient helps in sweat replenishment, it is a candidate for adding to Gatorade. If not, it's not. This is the way it was at Gatorade for a long time. But times have changed...
Fast forward to today and it seems that Gatorade is tackling a broader mission of athlete performance while sticking to strict positioning for the core product. The core product, Gatorade "02 Perform" formulation appears to be the original Gatorade consumers know and love. However, the Gatorade "01 Prime" formulation seems have learned a thing or two from energy drinks. Gatorade "01 Prime" contains water, sugar, and sodium as well as Niacin, Vitamin B6, and Panthothenic Acid. The last three ingredients are all B-Group Vitamins. All six ingredients are found in Red Bull and other energy drinks. Gatorade left the caffeine out but that's just a detail.
So yes... Gatorade is a competitor to Red Bull Energy Drink. It's no wonder brands like Gatorade want to join the party. The energy drink category continues to grow in double digits every year while isotonics are flat (no pun intended). I think ultimately products from Gatorade that are not hydration focused will fail because Gatorade's whole reason for being is hydration. Remember Gatorade gum? Gatorade energy bars? Why would "01 Prime" or "03 Recover" beverages be different? Only time will tell though. Stay tuned.