Hydration achieves mainstream success

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Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 27 No. 1
Volume 27
Issue 1

A fast growing segment, hydration products have seen a great deal of mainstream success, offering a variety of benefits to a wide range of consumers.

Photo © AdobeStock.com /Маргарита Вайс

Photo © AdobeStock.com /Маргарита Вайс

The hydration market is guzzling profits as shoppers show more interest in staying better hydrated during the day. “This category has seen massive growth over the past year, both in ready-to-drink formats as well as powders, tablets, and stick packs,” stated The Vitamin Shoppe last year in its “2023 Health & Wellness Trend Report.” Consumer searches for hydration products on The Vitamin Shoppe’s website “surged over 200%” in the 52 weeks ending in March 2023. Clearly, people are getting the message that staying healthy requires staying hydrated.

The latest SPINS data shared with Nutritional Outlook show sales of hydration ingredients in the mainstream U.S. supplement ingredients market grew 51% in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 3, 2023, from $325 million to $491 million. Multi-minerals and amino acids were two of the skyrocketing ingredients.

“It’s a very important segment,” says Scott Dicker, market insights director for SPINS. “We’ve seen it really take off with triple digit growth in the past few years, as you know, the liquid IVs of the world really took it mainstream, and where it’s not just like a sports drink as the primary function. We see it used for other use cases like hangover remedies. I’ll be honest, I’m a little surprised at how much interest there is in hydration, but we know that active nutrition has been the fastest growing category for the past few years, so staying hydrated in that sense makes sense that it’s seeing growth.”

Beyond active nutrition, however, Dicker points out that hydration being associated with things like good skin and hangover recovery really helps it grow and thrive. “Most of the growth, just in general, that we see in supplements a lot of time is when they could find a new audience, either a new health focus or a new demographic,” says Dicker. “So hydration, and led by a few major brands that really paved the way, has really done a great job in that.”

Smart marketing by hydration companies is key. “Innovative brands like PRIME, Liquid I.V., Liquid Labs, and Nuun are driving excitement in the category with slick marketing, bold packaging, fresh flavors, and impactful social media collaborations—as well as science-backed messaging that hydration products work faster than water alone to replenish fluids and electrolytes in the body,” The Vitamin Shoppe reported.

Research gives companies the edge. Example: last year, life sciences firm Entrinsic Bioscience (Norwood, MA) announced a published clinical study1 on its Ultra-Hydrating HeatDefense formula, “a patented amino acid blend that provides statistically significant levels of protection against exertional heat stress.” The researchers found that the Entrinsic beverages, consumed twice daily for seven days before and during intense activity, “successfully protected the GI barrier during exercise-induced heat stress and provided faster recovering from ‘leaky gut.’” (Heat exposure and physical exertion can exacerbate both of these conditions.)

Ingredient suppliers are also raising the bar. At last October’s SupplySide West trade show, Bartek Ingredients (Stoney Creek, ON, Canada) launched its Refortify ingredient line touting better bioavailability, better taste, and a better price compared to other electrolyte and fortification salts on the market.

“Overall, the sports nutrition beverages market is projected to grow at about 5% annually globally. Within this category, hydration benefits are hitting a new level as manufacturers bring new products that offer rapid rehydration and all-day hydration to the marketplace,” saysJuliana Biederman, associate marketing manager for Cargill (Minneapolis, MN). On top of this, consumers are becoming more savvy.

“Consumers are seeking transparency in labeling across the board, and this is no different for beverage categories. As a result, we’re seeing growth in the use of more premium salts (like Sea Salts and Pink Himalayan) to address this consumer need,” explains Biederman. “Some consumers also believe that these premium salts offer better hydration, another trend that is spurring growth in this area.”

In terms of demographic, The Vitamin Shoppe reports that younger consumers are now key hydration customers. In the past, hydration products were mostly associated with high-impact athletes or people with medical conditions at risk of dehydration, the report pointed out, but “recent SPINS sales data show that it’s new, younger consumers that are driving the sharp increase in hydration sales. Younger individuals over-index the average shopper by over 60% in this category, while Boomers and seniors under-index the category by nearly 70%.”

Innovative product flavors and formulations are key to attracting new customers. “In a market filled with new entrants, innovation will be critical for hydration products in 2024,” says Rania Abou Samra, global head of product and technology development, Nestlé Health Science (Hoboken, NJ), maker of Nuun Hydration. “Innovation in product formulations, specifically lower sugar with higher electrolyte profiles, as well as flavor are areas where hydration powders and tablets can stand out this year.”

As for taste, suppliers point to some of the flavors trending in hydration drinks.

“Summer fruit flavors are blooming in the recent hydration revolution,” Alex Massumoto, marketing specialist at Synergy Flavors (Wauconda, IL), tells Nutritional Outlook. “Nearly one-third of powdered hydration drinks carry citrus flavors.” Today’s rising flavors include passion fruit, lemon lime, and pink lemonade, reports Synergy Flavors’ Hydration Revolution report.

“As the category continues to grow, we expect to see new summery and emerging flavors, including kiwi, peach, pomegranate, apple, acai, dragon fruit, and yuzu,” he adds.

Naturalness is also a draw, says Lisa Jackson, director of marketing at FlavorSum LLC (Kalamazoo, MI). She notes that more than 7 in 10 consumers in North America consider hydration drinks a top choice for refreshment. “While many name electrolytes as a top solution for hydration,” she says, “50% or more say ingredients and flavors like watermelon or coconut suggest a more natural option.”

Finally, retailers are bringing hydration products to the fore. Last year, The Vitamin Shoppe created new front-of-store merchandising displays dedicated to hydration products, with the expectation of seeing hydration sales grow 140% by the end of last year. Keep an eye on this category in 2024.

To learn more about our Ingredients to Watch, listen to our conversation with SPIN's director of market insights, Scott Dicker, on The Nutritional Outlook Podcast.

Reference

  1. Costa, R.J.S.; Henningsen, K.; Gaskell, S.K.; et al. Amino acid–based beverage interventions ameliorate exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome in response to exertional-heat stress: the Heat Exertion Amino Acid Technology (HEAAT) Study. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2023, 33 (4), 230-242. DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2023-0025
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