When you think of Gatorade, you probably picture a neon orange or yellow sports drink. But the company is trying to carve out a niche for itself in another increasingly important aspect of fitness: technology.
Or, more specifically, technology that measures your sweat. Gatorade's sweat patch--which it's currently testing at its Sports Science Institute in Bradenton, Florida, and hopes to roll out to consumers next year--can be worn by athletes during practice or workouts to help them track hydration and nutrients they've lost through perspiration. Xavi Cortadellas, Gatorade's head of innovation and design, says that information will help them refuel more effectively, which, in theory, should provide them with an extra edge on the field. It's a key part of the company's plans for providing athletes with access to comprehensive information about their performance.
"We needed a vision for the Gatorade of the future," Cortadellas says of the sweat patch's conception. Users attach the three-inch-long patch to their forearm, and built-in sensors measure how much they sweat and how much sodium they lose during their workout. That info is relayed to Gatorade's GX app, which then offers advice on how to refuel--with Gatorade, naturally.
So, initially the sweat patch is largely a vehicle to tell athletes how much Gatorade they should drink. But Cortadellas envisions the company eventually offering a full suite of educational tools and personalized measurements for athletes. It could help them develop exercise and nutritional plans, and advise how best to recover from a workout, in part by suggesting how much protein to consume.
The tech is also an obvious match with the company's GX bottle system, which lets an athlete (or anyone) order pods of Gatorade that contain different amounts of sodium customized to their so-called sweat profile. The company has tested the system with professional sports teams including the Boston Celtics and Kansas City Chiefs.
Gatorade, which is owned by PepsiCo, of course would be far from the first sports company to make a foray into wearables. From 2014 to 2015, Under Armour spent nearly $1 billion acquiring various technologies, like the MapMyRun app, that it could incorporate into its clothing. Nike and Adidas both spent several years making wearables before giving up on them about two years ago.
Cortadellas notes Gatorade's focus will be more on the software than on hardware, and that the platform it is developing could be accessed through other companies' wearables. The system would fall into what he calls Gatorade's "sweet spot": athlete fueling and nutrition.
"Sports science is complex, and athletes want it simplified and want more actionable input," he says. "We want to be the translators of this complexity to everyday athletes."
Check out the 360-degree video above of Gatorade's Sports Science Institute to see some of the other technologies the company uses to develop and test its products.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the GX bottle system's pods contain Gatorade in powder form. The pods actually contain liquid.