ICI has developed a range of ingredients for sports drinks that may halve recovery time after exercise. ICI's food and fragrances division Quest International claims that its new ingredient, Hyprol, can cut down the amount of time it takes to regain muscle strength after strenuous exercise by up to 14 hours. While this is clearly a desirable trait, Hyprol-based drinks will still face strong challenges penetrating the increasingly crowded sports drink market.

ICI is making moves to tap in on the lucrative sports drink market. ICI's flavours, fragrances and ingredients arm, Quest International, has developed a range of ingredients for use in energy drinks that can drastically reduce the amount of time taken to recover after exercising. And the ingredients aren't just useful for the sporty members of the population. Quest anticipates that they should prove useful in reducing recovery times for burns victims or patients who have undergone surgical procedures.

But for now the emphasis is on the broader drinks market. Energy and sports drinks have been taking away market share from other soft drinks for a while now, as well as digging out a new niche for themselves. And sales are still growing - but it's not been easy for new entrants to take a piece of the action.

Despite a vast and growing number of competitors, PepsiCo's Gatorade still dominates the sports drink category, holding 78% of the US market. Even the extensively marketed Powerade, made by Coca-Cola, has only managed to grab 15%. Other brands with less impressive companies behind them don't even come close.

Variants such as vitamin enriched and low calorie products have served to create some extra benefits and sneak in a little extra differentiation between drinks but, in an increasingly crowded marketplace, it is hard to make a drink stand out. Quest International is hoping that its ingredient, Hyprol, will do just that. Hyprol contains peptides, which provide amino acids, and has shown success in clinical trials at the University of Maastricht. QI claims that the substance allows long-distance runners and cyclists to get their strength back in just 10-15 hours, rather than the usual 24.

The data looks good for ICI and whichever companies decide to take the ingredient on board - Hyprol has just the sort of appeal that will get energy-hungry consumers interested. Still, it's going to take a lot of marketing to get the message heard.

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Global Sports & Energy Drinks Report 2000