Posted by: nickgerlich | October 12, 2007

Enlytenment

Over 40 years ago, a sports drink was born in a Florida lab out of necessity. University of Florida football players were wilting in the tropical sun, and a group of scientists was commissioned to find the cure for the summertime blues.

The result was Gatorade, the massively popular drink now consumed by athletes, laborers, and anyone else who might be hot and sweaty. Through the years its ownership has passed through several hands, but now resides in the PepsiCo stable of beverage products. And with about an 80% share of the market, it would seem that competitors would be frightened off.

Not so. And it’s not Coca Cola and their Powerade me-too product. No, it’s a new company with an entirely new product: Enlyten Sport Strips, by HealthSport, Inc.

Enlyten What makes Enlyten so unique is that it is not a sports drink at all, but rather electrolyte strips that the user puts in his or her mouth, between the cheek and gum. You know, like snuff.

Akin to the breath freshening strips that emerged a few years ago, Enlyten comes in three flavors, with 18 strips in each plastic cassette running $10. Recommended usage is 3-6 strips each time before, during, and after a workout or event.

According to CNBC, the Gatorade folks are a little nervous about Enlyten, not to mention protective of their exclusive sponsorship with the NFL.

Users must remember that Enlyten does not relieve one of their need for fluids and calories, which Gatorade or any number of other sports drinks deliver. Still, these handy little strips are easy to tote during a workout. It’s up to the athlete to remember to drink and eat.

I like the idea of these strips, at least in theory, but I wonder if the idea will fall flat. As an athlete, I know all too well that I rely, no, crave, the oral sensation of drinking and chewing at times during a long race. Having one more thing to have to put into my mouth is extra mental baggage. Furthermore, at $10 a pop, it begins to make Gatorade look pretty cheap.

That said, Gatorade and all the other isotonic sports beverages are really little more than over-priced sugar water. Tasty, sure, but not intended to be a workout-sustaining fuel. Whenever consumers have to learn an entirely new way of using a product, there can be insurmountable hurdles, even if the delivery method technically is more efficient.

While the transmucosal ingestion (a fancy phrase for rapid absorption) of Enlyten is a strength, I suspect this product will only become popular in sports with players having time to kill along the sidelines. If you’re running, riding, skiing, etc., you’ve probably already got water bottles and hydration packs already figured out.

Nice idea, but I doubt I’ll be going to this strip club.

Dr “Later Gator” Gerlich

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