How Gatorade Is Changing The Way Athletes Hydrate
PSFK learns about the sport drink manufacturer's hydration tracking system with Head of Innovation and Design Xavi Cortadellas
As discussed in PSFK Labs’ Sports Debrief, fitness technology is becoming hyper-personalized, equipping athletes with a new set of tools capable of reading the minute details of their bodies. However, these data-driven technologies are often far more concerned with how much energy the body is expending, rather than what is being put into it.
Xavi Cortadellas, Head of Innovation and Design at Gatorade, spent the last three years working with elite sports teams, developing a system to track the hydration of athletes and giving them the necessary nutrients to recover.
The Gatorade Gx system includes a smart cap with fluid tracking sensors, pods with concentrated Gatorade formula for personalized hydration and a digital sweat patch that provides real-time hydration tracking. While the ecosystem is currently used for a number of professional teams, Gatorade is planning on commercializing a simpler model in early 2017.
Xavi spoke to PSFK about developing the hydration system, and how the Gx platform can work with wearable technology to illustrate a holistic approach to health monitoring:
PSFK: What do you think other contemporary sports and nutritive manufacturers should be focusing on?
Xavi: One big thing that we are hearing over and over from consumers is the ask for what we call “cleaner” products, so non‑artificial colorants, non‑artificial sweeteners, stuff like that.
The other one…is to expand from one product on hydration to more a suite of products, towards a more sports nutrition portfolio. We know that sports drinks are important, but probably are not enough. To have a wide variety of products, from gels, powders, bars, protein powders, shakes, etc. We strongly believe that for the athlete to have a broader portfolio of solutions for them to pick and choose, it’s important.
Probably the last one is, and building on the second one, is this increasing desire for personalization. One size doesn’t fit all, so just to evolve our portfolio, the type of solutions we are providing to athletes, that they will be able to tailor which type of products, formulas, flavors, etc., they are using. I think these are the three big things where we see the industry evolving in the upcoming years.
PSFK: Can you describe the development process for Gatorade’s smart tech?
Xavi: Basically, the whole concept starts with the idea that every athlete is unique, and their fueling needs are different. Based on that, we developed an integrated platform that combines testing of the athlete, to figure out their sweat rate and sweat type, to figure out basically their profile as an athlete, which is the product and the volume of the product that will fit better his needs.
Then this recommendation, it’s basically tailored according to the duration of the practice, the intensity of the practice, the type of weather, the type of athlete. Then it’s important for us to deliver a broader range of products with different formulas that then the athlete will have the opportunity to self‑select which formula fits better for him.
Our digital platform allows to do that. It’s going to recommend the athlete which is the product that fits better for them. The other component that we have integrated into the platform is this tracking capability. Even more important than the formula that you pick, what is probably more relevant is the amount of fluid that you are taking.
With the smart cap technology, what we are able is to track how much the athlete is drinking at real time, and help him basing on their hydration and tell him, “Hey, you are over hydrating,” or “You are not hydrating enough,” and course correct as athletes go through practice.
The platform, obviously, is a complex system that has testing capabilities, the tracking capabilities, the system of different formulas, etc. This is designed for pro teams. We have a few teams already using the platform.
PSFK: Who is the target athlete for Gatorade’s innovations?
Xavi: We are innovating for elite athletes, but then what we call the “competitive athlete” is this kid, like high school, that sports is a very important part of their life. We believe that this is also our core audience. Then there is a broader appeal to the everyday Joe, people that relate to sports, that are engaged with the sports brand, and that they believe that the sports drinks and the sports nutrition could be part of their lives while in the active occasion, or before or after they go to the gym, etc. I think it’s not one or the other. We start with this sharp focus around elite athletes, and we believe that then all the others will come behind.
PSFK: How was Gatorade’s Gx system influenced by the rise of data-driven wearables?
Xavi: …There is a huge trend around wearables, and around the fitness space and counting calories, counting steps you take, counting how many hours you sleep, etc. I will say that, yes, we are seeing this as a big movement, as a big trend, and definitely something that could be interesting for us.
But the real drive for us to start developing the smart cap and the digital sweat patch, etc,, was the ability to better fuel our athletes. It’s not that we are developing that because everyone is doing wearables. To do an intelligent bottle that tracks [water intake], we felt that this would be important to inform athletes how they were doing in terms of hydration.
The other piece of technology that we are developing, that is a digital sweat patch that will be able to read, at real time, how much are you sweating, and which sweat type do you have? That’s breakthrough technology that’s something that doesn’t exist today in the market, but we see huge applications for that in order to inform the athlete on their hydration needs.
It’s more driven, again, for the individualization of each athlete. If you think in the context of a team, a high school team or a professional team, the hydration needs of every athlete will vary significantly. The coaches today, they don’t have a way to really know that, unless they are testing all their players individually.
Any solutions we could bring on the market that allows these coaches to personalize the hydration needs for each one of their players, we believe that that will be an enhancement in terms of performance, and even in terms of safety.
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