PepsiCo Adds Gatorade-Level Electrolytes to Propel Water

(Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Propel is thirsty for a change.

The PepsiCo fitness water brand aims to prove that its latest bottled water is more than just, well, bottled water.

Propel, essentially a little-sister brand to sports-drink giant Gatorade, has seen sales decline as other brands use heavy doses of advertising to win over the target audience of exercise enthusiasts.

Now, Propel is out with a new electrolyte water made for those who work out and are looking for something more than plain water and something different than Gatorade. Propel Electrolyte Water is clear and has no flavoring or calories. But it has electrolytes, something Gatorade has promoted for 50 years.

“This is truly about an athletic occasion,” said Brett O’Brien, senior vice president and general manager of Gatorade. The target consumer for Propel Electrolyte Water is the type of person who says “the day just doesn’t feel right unless I’ve got the chance to get out and work out.”

The new water has the same level of electrolytes as Gatorade. Each drink has 160 milligrams of sodium and 45 milligrams of potassium per 12-ounce serving. Gatorade also contains 80 calories in a 12-ounce serving.

The bottle calls out Propel’s link to Gatorade with the words “from the makers of” above Gatorade’s G logo.

“It means something to consumers to say that there’s Gatorade level of electrolytes,” said O’Brien. Even if consumers do not understand what electrolytes are, they understand that they’re associated with Gatorade, a performance drink with a 50-year heritage. “It was kind of a badge of trust to put that on there.”

Hydration and replenishing electrolytes is “very key for endurance athletes or anyone doing vigorous exercise,” said Euromonitor Consumer Health Analyst Chris Schmidt. Still, he said that people may “overestimate their own actual needs” when it comes to hydration. For example, someone jogging on a treadmill doesn’t need the same level of replenishment as someone playing a long, physical game of sports.

O’Brien is quick to admit that for many exercise moments, such as a long walk or a quick jog, “water works very, very well.”

He sees the new Propel as a more “robust” water for more intense workouts, such as a spin class, a CrossFit-type class or a long, strenuous run.

After years of sales declines, Propel is gearing up for its biggest marketing campaign in more than seven years for Propel Electrolyte Water.

PepsiCo’s O’Brien declined to discuss spending on the campaign, which is Propel’s first effort from Minneapolis agency Mono.

Propel could use the boost. The brand’s share of the functional bottled water category has declined from 38.9 percent in 2005 to just 5.8 percent in 2014, according to data from Euromonitor International. Last year, Propel’s U.S. sales fell more than 11 percent to $146.5 million in 2014, according to Euromonitor.

Meanwhile, Gatorade is still the leading brand in the sports-drink category, commanding more than 75 percent of the market in each of the last two years. Coca-Cola’s Powerade, meanwhile, has lost some share over the same period and had 19.8 percent of the sports-drink market in 2014.

Last year, Propel spent nearly $12.8 million on advertising, less than one-tenth of what was spent on Gatorade, according to Kantar Media.