Almost any athlete that has reached for a sports hydration drink after a grueling session will be familiar with the Powerade brand. But despite its deep market penetration, the company has long played second fiddle to the market leader, Gatorade. But that is about to change, says Federico Muyshondt, the CEO of BODYARMOR, the sports hydration brand that owns both Powerade and BODYARMOR sports drinks.
Changes are already visible in the year since Muyshondt took the company’s reins. At the start of 2023, Powerade took on a new identity, designed to give the brand "a lot more energy", he tells The CEO Magazine.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, with Muyshondt promising the biggest investment the 35-year-old brand has ever seen.
"With Powerade, we’ve been tasked with renovating and reigniting the brand over the next three to five years," he says.
We want to become real, we want to become authentic and a brand that can inspire and be inspiration for the next generation of athletes.
Establishing a point of differentiation to its biggest rival has also been crucial, he continues.
"For the longest time, Powerade has been quite similar to Gatorade as an offering," he admits.
But an innovative reboot of the Powerade recipe has changed that.
"We now have 50 percent more electrolytes, and we have added vitamin C and vitamin B12 to our product. As our consumer becomes more functional, we thought that this was a very important thing for us to do, particularly in a sports drink," he says.
BODYARMOR plans to get behind these changes with Muyshondt outlining plans to be "very loud and proud" about the new formula. But that’s not all.
"We’re going to continue to renovate the portfolio, work on the fundamentals, and eventually get to year three, which is where we’re really going to start to innovate into new spaces," he says. "Ultimately with the brand, we want to become real, we want to become authentic and a brand that can inspire and be inspiration for the next generation of athletes."
Making it happen
Muyshondt has the right experience under his belt to make these dreams a reality. He joined BODYARMOR from yogurt giant Chobani. As Chief Commercial Officer, he oversaw its expansion into products beyond the dairy aisle and helped to double the company in size over a five-year period.
His time at Chobani has enabled him to bring a different perspective to BODYARMOR, he says.
After all, the hard work of establishing BODYARMOR as a credible sports brand has already been done, according to Muyshondt.
"The people before me, the Founder, the leadership team and the rest of the 400 associates, were able to accomplish that," he says. "To me, that gives us such an advantage over trying to build the brand. The brand’s already there, the brand already has the credentials, the brand has the credibility. My focus is now how do we expand."
It’s not about participation, it’s about winning. We’re fast and we’re very scrappy.
Co-founded by Mike Repole and with late basketball icon Kobe Bryant, also known as Black Mamba, as an early investor, BODYARMOR is blessed with having that mamba mentality built into its very foundations, according to Muyshondt.
"That mindset is still with us. It’s about being better all the time, never flinching and always going for the win," he says. "For us here at BODYARMOR, it’s not about participation, it’s about winning. We’re fast and we’re very scrappy."
The company is now wholly owned by the Coca-Cola Company – a "best of both worlds" scenario that bestows it with the benefits of scale while allowing it to maintain its agility.
"The backing of a monster like Coca-Cola is nothing but a good thing in terms of cost, but also in terms of sales," Muyshondt reflects. "It helps us on our top line because of the bottling system that takes our product to store, but also it allows us to save on the cost of goods sold to be able to reinvest in growth."
An additional advantage as it takes on Gatorade is its strong performance across both of its brands. The BODYARMOR sports drink is the "tip of the spear", according to Muyshondt.
"It shook a category that was 65 years old to its core by offering superior hydration, by being better for you and being the first one that is all natural," he says. "We need to keep pushing the limits and keep innovating."
The two brands are very different, but they complement each other well and cater to very different markets, according to Muyshondt. While BODYARMOR is about wellness, fitness and holistic health, Powerade is more about sport and "the moment of sweat".
The cross purchase between the two is less than 10 percent, he reveals.
We need to keep pushing the limits and keep innovating.
"Powerade is a sodium-based electrolyte product. BODYARMOR is a potassium-based electrolyte product. BODYARMOR’s all natural, Powerade is not," he clarifies. "So, the starting points are different, but the goal is to take them both into a more functional space."
This shift mirrors the trends being seen in the market, with consumers becoming more functional, Muyshondt says.
"The consumer, and rightly so, is expecting more from their food and their food and beverage manufacturers," he explains.
BODYARMOR is perfectly placed for this as a "super drink" which offers consumers electrolytes for hydration, vitamin C for immunity, and vitamin B12 for energy. Its functionality inspired the recent Powerade upgrade, he adds.
"We call it the one-two punch, and overall, we think we have a pretty solid plan as a two-branded system to become number one in five years," he says. "That’s ultimately what we want to do."