PowerAde's zero-calorie sports drink takes on Gatorade

NEW YORK -- Coca-Cola's PowerAde is giving Gatorade a run for its calorie count.

On the heels of Gatorade's rollout of low-calorie G2, No. 2 sports-drink brand PowerAde is going all the way — to zero calories. Trying to build on the success of diet drinks Coke Zero and Sprite Zero, PowerAde Zero is going into stores now.

Traditional sports drinks, such as regular PowerAde, provide calories for energy as well as electrolytes to replace those lost in vigorous exercise.

"PowerAde offers carbohydrates for those with intense workouts," says Matt Kahn, vice president of marketing. "But there's a whole group of calorie-conscious gymgoers. This is the first major brand to give hydration and electrolytes with zero calories."

Tennis star Venus Williams will endorse the drink in print ads next week. Other ads in Us Weekly and Men's Health will tout its zero calories vs. Gatorade products by showing calories per 8 ounces: 50 for Gatorade, 25 for G2 and 10 for flavored Propel Fitness Water.

Williams drinks pink lemonade PowerAde on the court, but says she's wanted a lower-calorie alternative for less intense workouts.

"I have a nutrition plan and need to rehydrate without the calories," says Williams by phone from a photo shoot for Shape magazine.

Says Kahn, "We think even an elite athlete is going to be careful about consuming wasted calories."

Zero comes in strawberry, mixed berry and grape, artificially sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

"I can't keep it in my refrigerator — everyone takes them," Williams says. "Grape is my favorite. Purple is my favorite color, and grape is the best flavor, and that's the one that's always gone."

PowerAde sees Zero as a way to revive growth. Volume for PowerAde's line, which has 19% of the sports-drink market, slid 1.5% in the first quarter, according to trade publication Beverage Digest, while volume for all sports drinks grew 1.3% and Gatorade rose 2%. Reduced-calorie G2 has been out just four months and already has captured 8% of all sports-drink sales.

In addition to the push for Zero, PowerAde is ramping up its marketing overall for summer. It recently became a Little League Baseball sponsor and added 15 new athlete endorsers, including NBA star Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia pro baseball player Ryan Howard.

Entering the peak season, Kahn says, "We think we have the right strategy … to take PowerAde up a notch. We expect big things from PowerAde Zero."

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