Coca-Cola’s BodyArmor launches hydration powders at retail

Coca-Cola is bringing its BodyArmor brand into on-the-go powders, a major step by the beverage giant to accelerate innovation for its popular sports drink.

Soon after purchasing the remaining 85% of BodyArmor it didn’t already own in 2021 for $5.6 billion, executives at Coca-Cola started “working fast and furiously” to figure out where they wanted to take it, Sabrina Niland, BodyArmor’s head of innovation, said in an interview.

It quickly became apparent that while BodyArmor had become a formidable competitor in sports drinks to Gatorade and other brands, “we weren’t playing in some of the largest, fastest-growing segments,” Niland recalled.

A big step in remedying that came in June.

BodyArmor entered the rapid rehydration beverage category with BodyArmor Flash I.V., the brand’s first major product launch in two years. Coca-Cola estimates hydration enhancers, the fastest-growing segment of the beverage boosting category, is increasing double digits and on pace to hit $1 billion in sales this year.

Despite this promise, Niland said repeat purchases of rapid hydration products are lower than in other categories. This gives BodyArmor a bigger opportunity to tap into the lucrative growth space.

Coca-Cola is taking BodyArmor Flash I.V. and launching it in a powder form called Flash I.V. Hydration Boosters. BodyArmor has a powder available on the sidelines of Major League Soccer.

The product extension allows the hydration brand to tap into convenience, sustainability and customizable attributes that shoppers increasingly value. It also allows BodyArmor to enter areas where having bottles can be challenging, such as airports.

Similar to the ready-to-drink bottle, the hydration sticks for BodyArmor Flash I.V contain Zinc and Vitamin C and B12 for immune support, and they lack artificial flavors, sweeteners or dyes. The powder also reportedly contains more nutritional benefits than any other electrolyte powder available, with zero sugar and twice the amount of electrolytes as the competition.

Another selling point is the use of coconut powder that helps with hydration, boosting electrolytes and improving the taste of the product by offsetting the salty finish consumers expect in competing products, Niland noted.

The powder comes in five flavors: Cucumber Lime, Grape, Lemon Lime, Strawberry Kiwi and Tropical Punch. The Flash I.V. Hydration Boosters will debut nationwide at Walmart, Amazon and other retailers at the end of September.

BodyArmor sales were about $250 million in 2018, and this year are on track to reach nearly $1.5 billion, according to Coca-Cola. Since its launch in 2011, BodyArmor has debuted other offerings, such as an electrolyte-infused SportsWater and a low-calorie BodyArmor Lyte.  

“We’re not just a sports drink company. We want to be seen as a sports nutrition solution,” Niland said of the BodyArmor brand. “We’re just getting started into new categories. And so we’ll continue to expand into new categories that support as being a complete solution under the BodyArmor brand.”

She noted BodyArmor plans to launch additional powders in the future, though she declined to divulge what areas it is targeting.

The new launches could help Coca-Cola, which has struggled at times to integrate BodyArmor, the largest acquisition in the company’s history.

“We had not had the greatest integration into the Coke system last year on BodyArmor and obviously there’s some new players and new category dynamics,” James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s CEO, told analysts in April. “We’re very focused on stabilizing our portfolio and growing from here.” 

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