Touting ‘the goodness of milk’ in a clear beverage might seem slightly weird to some consumers, acknowledges GoodSport founder and CEO Michelle McBride.
But the concept of milk as a sports beverage is actually a surprisingly easy sell, says McBride. Indeed, chocolate milk is already a go-to drink for many athletes, so in some respects the groundwork has already been laid.
“There’s an education component for sure – because GoodSport doesn’t look like milk [it’s a clear beverage with the mouthfeel, taste, and packaging consumers expect from a sports drink] – but the research demonstrated that milk contributed to the product’s believability.
“Chocolate milk for athletic recovery was the impetus for this product, because I was giving my son chocolate milk instead of traditional sports drinks. Athletes immediately get it when you talk to them," adds McBride, an attorney who worked with SkinnyPop founder Andy Friedman; the former director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute Dr Bob Murray; and dairy applications scientist KJ Burrington to bring her product to life.
Carbohydrates for energy; electrolytes for hydration
The key to creating GoodSport - which she says brings something genuinely novel to the sports beverage category - was removing milk's protein and fat (barriers to rapid digestion), but keeping the carbs and electrolytes, the two core components in any sports hydration beverage (for pre, during, and post-workout).
Carbohydrates provide energy to muscles and speed absorption of fluid and electrolytes into the bloodstream (and in most sports drinks come from sugar, dextrose, or HFCS); while electrolytes deliver speedier rehydration by replacing electrolytes lost in sweat. Other ingredients are then added for flavor, color, mouthfeel, and stability.
GoodSport - which has more electrolytes and less sugar than traditional sports drinks – delivers its carbs from naturally-occurring milk sugar (lactose), which is broken down by lactase enzyme into glucose and galactose, creating a lactose-free beverage.
Its 1,656mg of electrolytes (far more than you’ll get in a regular sports drink) also come from the milk permeate, which contains sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and phosphorus (most sports beverages just add sodium and potassium).
McBride then adds monk fruit and erythritol for sweetness; sea salt; and natural flavors and colors to deliver a lactose-free, shelf-stable beverage that is also is a good source of calcium and an excellent source of B vitamins, says McBride.
“To make it shelf-stable we have to hot fill it, which requires lowering the pH, so to counterbalance that we have to add more sweetness, because people working out have ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to sweetness expectations for a sports drink.”
“Having spent my career in hydration and exercise performance research, I’ve known milk has the ingredients to provide superior hydration, but never before has anyone found a way to transform milk into an extremely effective and refreshing sports drink. It’s exciting to be part of the team that’s bringing something entirely new with superior hydration to the sports drink category.”
Bob Murray, PhD, former director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, a fellow at the American College of Sports Medicine, and ‘chief hydration officer’ at GoodSport
But does having more electrolytes – whether in volume or variety - actually matter? According to a very small study* conducted by scientists at Penn State University and published in the journal Nutrients last year, GoodSport hydrates better than both water and traditional sports drinks, says McBride.
The 12-person study – which compared the beverage hydration index (and related physiological responses) of GoodSport to water and a traditional sports drink (a ‘carbohydrate-electrolyte solution’) – found that GoodSport was superior to the traditional sports drink (and to water) at sustaining positive fluid balance post-ingestion, says McBride.
“But GoodSport also builds on other research [that looks at milk's re-hydration credentials].”
Gatorade (fruit punch flavor): Water, sugar, dextrose, citric acid, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, modified food starch, natural flavor, glycerol ester of rosin, red 40, and caramel color.
500ml contains 111 calories and 29g sugar (added).
GoodSport (fruit punch flavor): Ultra-filtered de-proteinized milk, natural color, monk fruit extract, vegetable juice, citric acid, erythritol, lactase enzyme, and sea salt.
500ml contains 90 calories and 21g sugar (from the milk permeate).
The upcycling story
So where does GoodSport’s #1 ingredient come from?
“We work with dairy companies who are ultra-filtering milk and sending the permeate to farms for animal feed,” says McBride [although she acknowledges that this isn’t the fate of all milk permeates, which can be used in a wide variety of food products when sold as a spray-dried powder].
So is this an ‘upcycling story’? Absolutely, says McBride, although right now, she’s more focused on explaining what makes GoodSport a great sports beverage than talking about the circular economy.
“The core message is unlocking the power of milk in a refreshing sports drink, but we are members of the Upcycled Foods Association, and we’ll probably lean more into that aspect as we grow and can show that we are making an impact.”
Go to market strategy
GoodSport has just launched on Amazon and goodsport.com ($32.99/12-pk), and will be available in some Chicago retailers this spring with broader distribution to follow, says McBride, who is targeting everyone from youth sports teams to professional athletes (the fact that Dr Bob Murray, former director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and a fellow at the American College of Sports Medicine helped hone the formula also lends credibility to this particular endeavor).
The team right now is small – but has significant experience in the CPG world, says McBride, who participated in the Dairy Farmers of America 2020 CoLAB accelerator to help fine tune her commercialization strategy.
COO Zach Holte previously worked at Limitless, Uptime Energy, Red Bull and Neurobrands; while founding partner Andrew Friedman founded SkinnyPop. Cindy Alston, formerly CMO for Gatorade, is working with the team on marketing, while Dr Bob Murray (mentioned above) is serving as ‘chief hydration officer’ on a contract basis.
“I knew that this could be something really big, and from my first meeting with Bob Murray, he said I can’t believe no one has done this before. Let’s do it.”
*Co-author Dr. Bob Murray served as a paid consultant on the project.
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