Gatorade SVP and GM Brett O’Brien gave BD an exclusive look this week at PepsiCo’s new Bolt24 hydration beverage (BD 5/21/19). The product will begin shipping in time for a July 10 launch tied to ABC’s ESPY athlete awards. Bolt24 is positioned as “all-day hydration for the 24/7 athlete,” O’Brien said. The name is a reference to that concept and Gatorade’s trademarked lightning bolt. The 16-oz shrink wrapped PET bottle will include the words “fueled by Gatorade” on the back panel. The Gatorade bolt is featured on the front of the pack and on the cap, which is black instead of the usual orange. The word “Gatorade” doesn’t appear otherwise. “There’s a bit of a trust factor there, and that’s why we wanted to keep some consistency with Gatorade,” O’Brien said. “But it was important for us to separate out Bolt24 because this isn’t your traditional Gatorade.” O’Brien, who demurred from calling Bolt24 a sports drink, said the brand creates a platform to potentially launch a “suite of products” (such as an alkaline drink) that can “hydrate athletes and keep them primed and ready for whenever they have to hit the field.”
Details. Bolt24 contains 80 calories per bottle, or almost 38 calories per 8-oz serving (Gatorade contains almost 53 calories per 8-ozs). The hot-fill product is sweetened with cane sugar and stevia. Electrolytes are from watermelon and sea salts. Vitamins include B3, B5 and B6. Antioxidants will come from vitamins A and C. The word “antioxidant” is called out on the bottle front. Bolt24 contains no artificial sweeteners or flavors, according to PepsiCo. Flavors at launch will be Tropical Mango, Mixed Berry and Watermelon Strawberry. The 16.9-oz bottle will retail for $2.19.
Distribution. The innovation will be launched as a single-serve product and limited to the cold vault to start, O’Brien said. While convenience store coverage will be broad, facings and product amounts will be limited as Gatorade seeds the brand and tests the market in preparation for wider penetration next year, he said. Distribution will include sports specialty stores and colleges. In select large-format stores, the drink will appear in beverage coolers only. When asked whether independent Pepsi bottlers, who mostly handle Gatorade in small format stores only, will get access to Bolt24, O’Brien didn’t rule it out. Bolt24 “does give them a chance to bring this product into some of the formats that they currently aren’t engaging in,” he said. “These guys can bring it in and keep it cold from a single-serve standpoint, and that’s something that’s new and interesting for them and we’ll see how that goes.” A Pepsi system source told BD that some independent bottlers have attempted to leverage the Bolt24 launch to get access to Gatorade in large format.
Competition. Gatorade, the US sports drink category leader, has been pressured in recent years by Bodyarmor, which has positioned itself as a “more natural” alternative. Last year, Coca-Cola took a minority investment in the company and agreed to distribute the product. Bodyarmor’s growth has recently slowed to about +50% from almost +100% during the past year as distribution gains subside. With Gatorade Zero and now Bolt24, PepsiCo has shown it will aggressively defend the Gatorade franchise, especially at a time when carbonated drink sales continue to decline. When asked, O’Brien said Bodyarmor “wasn’t a factor in creating this product,” adding that Bolt24 has been in development “for the past couple of years.” The goal, O’Brien said, was to create a product that was “clean,” “dead cool,” and “premium.” “I’m not positioning against them or next to them,” he said of Bodyarmor. “I’m positioning this next to the full Gatorade experience of ‘on the field and off the field.’” When pressed, O’Brien said there are similarities to Bodyarmor in how that product is being “used off the field.”
CBD. BD asked whether the Bolt24 platform could one day include a hemp CBD (cannabidiol) offering. The answer was unexpected. “We’ve got to pay attention to what role CBD would play, especially in athlete recovery, where it is getting some usage now,” O’Brien said. “We’re still trying to figure out the best way to work with it and obviously trying to stay really tight with legislation and understanding that. But we’re not shying away from CBD. It’s something we’re looking at to understand its uses with athletes.” He added: “We know there is a lot of athlete usage, we’re just not sure the best way to incorporate that into what a Gatorade experience would be. It may be a Bolt24 proposition, but we’ve got some work to do to understand if that is something that we can bring to life. When athletes consistently tell us it’s something that they are interested in or using, we’ve got to pay attention.”
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