As hydration products gain momentum among consumers, Liquid I.V. is expanding its product line to balance taste and better-for-you attributes.
The Unilever-owned brand that specializes in powdered electrolyte drink mixes debuted this summer its latest variety and first to eschew sugar, Hydration Multiplier Sugar-Free. The new drink comes in three flavors: Lemon Lime, Green Grape and White Peach.
Sai Chaluvadi, vice president of R&D for scientific affairs at Liquid I.V., told Food Dive the brand contains three times more electrolytes than leading sports drinks.
Chaluvadi said the Hydration Multiplier Sugar-Free product creates a better-for-you version of its powders to meet consumer demand. It landed on allulose as an alternative sweetener since it is naturally occurring in plants such as figs. The brand also prioritized adding the amino acids glutamine and alanine because of the added hydration benefit they provide, the executive said.
According to Chaluvadi, it was a difficult two-year process to achieve the desired taste given these ingredient requirements and the importance the brand placed on flavor.
“There's a lot of science at work,” he said. “We run clinicals, we've run internal studies to really hone in on the formula that delivers on our promise of signature flavor and function.”
Chaluvadi added that allulose does not cause a glycemic response compared to other sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame, which is found in some hydration packets.
Consumer needs and considerations
Liquid I.V., which debuted in 2012, has seen growth accelerate during the past two years. It now is sold at large retailers nationwide, including Costco.
Unilever acquired Liquid I.V. for an undisclosed amount in 2020 in an effort to expand its reach in the health, wellness and personal nutrition space while increasing its exposure to sustainable products that have a positive social impact.
Chaluvadi said Liquid I.V. is searching for new areas to bring the brand that are ripe for disruption. Earlier this year, it introduced a line of kid’s hydration products that have limited distribution.
“That was another consumer need that we identified,” Chaluvadi said. “We really tried to understand how consumers are using our products. and kids happened to really intersect with that.”
Under Unilever, Liquid I.V. has scaled up its operations and pace of product innovation. Chaluvadi said.
When asked whether Liquid I.V. could launch bottled hydration products — similar to Pedialyte or Electrolit — Chaluvadi said the company prioritizes sustainable packaging, and would take that into heavy consideration.
“It all comes down to, ‘How do we accomplish those sustainability standards while meeting the consumer need?’ That’s the additional complexity we deal with,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information from Liquid I.V. about its decision to prioritize amino acids in its ingredient formulation.