Bottled water and energy drinks are providing strong competition to sports drinks brands. While isotonic formulations are widely referenced as a selling point by sports drinks, water is still chosen by the vast majority of Brits in order to rehydrate. Hot drinks are second in line, while sports drinks are chosen by just two in 10 consumers for this purpose. Water is also the drink of choice for consumers looking to perform better at sports, neck and neck with sports drinks and closely followed by energy drinks. As such, it appears that sports drinks are rarely seen to deliver on their key claims.

The consumers’ preference for other drinks illustrates the ongoing need for sports drinks brands to continue to prove their efficacy, and to demonstrate that they can make a positive difference on performance. Nearly one fifth of non- or infrequent users of sports drinks say that they do not trust the products’ claims, highlighting the need to educate consumers of their worth.

Appealing to the everyday exerciser

The majority of Brits exercise, with just over six in 10 UK adults working out for at least 30 minutes at least once a week, according to Mintel’s research. However, the UK sports drinks market is currently in long-term sales decline.

Sports drinks can arguably do more to capitalise on the surge in interest in sport by everyday exercisers, people who are participating in an attempt to be healthier, or a ‘better you’, rather than as sports people. High-profile campaigns are helping to make sport and exercise a more fun and inclusive proposition. For instance, the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign is designed to encourage more women to take up exercise, regardless of their age or body size.

The sports drinks market could also take a softer approach to reach a wider audience through category blurring with water, fruit juice or botanical ingredients. These appeal to a minority of UK sports/energy drink users as ingredients in these drinks and also tap into the better-for-you marketing angle.

Such blurring of lines is increasingly being seen in the wider soft drinks market, and has already been happening in sports and energy drinks, although the focus has largely been on energy waters. With all such drinks using water as an ingredient, the high interest here points to potential for sports drinks operators to benefit from actively referencing their use of water in their positioning, including on-pack claims.

Amy joined the Mintel Food and Drink team in 2010 producing and writing reports, providing insight and analysis on the food and drink market and regularly contributing in the media. This move followed two years as a member of the Trade Insight team, specialising in food and drink: interviewing clients, companies and organisations to identify key market trends and provide insight for Mintel reports. She joined Mintel in 2007 as Team Co-ordinator on the News and Features team. Amy has a BA (Hons) in English Literature.

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