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Technology-driven innovation: No sweat for Gatorade

If a 50-year-old sports drink company can embrace technology-driven innovation, you can too.

At this week’s CTO Summit in San Francisco, Calif., Xavi Cortadellas, head of innovation at Gatorade, discussed how the company is adapting to digitization by expanding its reach and shifting its focus from solving a sports drink problem to solving an athlete problem.

“From a science point of view, there was nothing really to be done with the product … so, we needed to start with a clear approach that would help us evolve the brand for the next 50 years,” Cortadellas said.

Gatorade’s innovation strategy centers around the development of its new digital platform, Gx, that is using technology to deliver mass personalization to athletes and fulfill their individual hydration needs.

Described by the company as a real-time hydration platform, Gx provides instant feedback on hydration level, fluid intake and fluid balance. It does this by using a sensor-filled “Digital Sweat Patch” to monitor fluid and salt levels and a smart cap bottle that gives visual feedback on fluid intake. Gx also offers different drink formulas depending on the individual’s hydration needs.

Athletes can receive real-time hydration reminders on their mobile devices before and after a sporting event. The real-time data collected from the platform can then be analyzed on a smart device to discover trends and figure out how an athlete can perform better on the field.

Launching online to consumers in 2017, Gx basically gives Gatorade a foothold in ecommerce, Cortadellas noted, which opens up a massive potential revenue stream and redefines the company’s relationship with customers.

The sports industry is one example of the increasing need for personalization and customization in today’s digital, customer-first world, but this trend is not new. Every industry is experiencing this shift.

Gatorade just found a way to change with the times.

Cortadellas admits that bringing technology-driven innovation to a product-based, traditional retailer  has been a challenge, but the key, according to him, is recognizing that — no matter what industry you’re in — technology-driven innovation needs to be personal and meaningful for the user.

One more pointer: Not everything needs a boost from innovation-driven technology, Cortadellas said. Small pilot and testing programs help you determine where technology can help bring business and customer value — and where it’s not needed.