Hydration for sports: Glycerol ‘could drive NPD’ in market dominated by electrolytes drinks

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Glycerol could be used together with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to develop powdered sports nutrition, says Innobio. ©Getty Images
Glycerol could be used together with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to develop powdered sports nutrition, says Innobio. ©Getty Images

Related tags hydration Sports nutrition Sports drinks glycerol

The sports drink market is largely dominated by electrolytes beverages, but China functional ingredients supplier Innobio believes the use of glycerol could offer a point of differentiation for new beverages designed for hydration purposes.

Glycerol is already commonly used in skincare products for its moisturising effects. It is considered as a sugar alcohol and is also used in food as a solvent, sweetener, and thickening agent.

The Dalian-based Innobio specialises in the manufacturing of ingredients such as amino acids, carotenoids, functional lipids, and microencapsulated vitamins.

However, based on the existing scientific findings and emerging market interest, the company ventured into the glycerol category and launched GlycerBlastTM ​– a powdered glycerol targeted at the sports nutrition market last year.

Interest in glycerol largely came from the US and the UK companies, as they sought new ingredients to differentiate their sports nutrition supplements, Wang Ting Ting, director of branding and marketing department told NutraIngredients-Asia.

“Due to our existing businesses in microencapsulation and amino acids, we are already working with customers who are making sports nutrition products and they are seeking for a point of differentiation to stand out from competition.

“The queries first came from our customers in the US, and we are also in discussion with customers from England currently,” ​she said.

According to Wang, glycerol could be used together with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to develop powdered sports nutrition that comes in tubs similarly used for whey protein products.

This is enabled by using the company’s microencapsulation technology that turns liquid glycerol into powdered form.

Combining glycerol with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) also helps consumers achieve hydration and muscle building effects at the same time.

“There are already a few products that are formulated in this way. However, this concept is still at a nascent stage, and we do see that there is growth potential.

“In fact, hydration is the topmost priority during exercise as there could be adverse effects when one is dehydrated,” ​she added.

Glycerol improves hydration by increasing osmotic pressure in the body. This increases water movements throughout the body and helps retain more water and in turn increases hydration levels, according to a 2012 study by van Rosendal SP et al.

Companies could also formulate glycerol with citrulline to develop pre-workout products that could help increase energy levels and hydration during exercise, said Wang.

Due to a lack of understanding of glycerol’s functional uses, she said that there were much lesser sports nutrition products containing glycerol in China as compared to the West.

Nonetheless, hydration is still a topic of great interest in China, with electrolyte drinks leading the category. Bestselling brands include local firm Genki Forest or Chi Forest’s Alienergy, Otsuka Pharma’s Pocari Sweat, and Pepsi’s Gatorade. Unilever’s Liquid I.V. is also entering the market with its powdered electrolytes drinks.

“In China, we usually consume electrolyte beverages not just during sports activities. Because bottled electrolytes drinks are convenient for use, they are consumed as part of the everyday lifestyle,”​ Wang said, adding that the category has been fast growing in China.

The company has also worked with market leader ChiForest to design electrolyte drinks that contain BCAA for sports users.

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