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Otsuka product development storiesPOCARI SWEAT Product story

Inspired by the idea of "drinkable IV,"
a drink supplying electrolytes and water carved out a new market

An entirely new concept, with an unorthodox blue design, it initially aroused little interest. However, it has become a best-selling drink with a huge fan base across Asia.

An electrolyte balance close to that of natural body fluids

POCARI SWEAT was developed over forty years ago. An Otsuka researcher was hospitalized with diarrhea while on a business trip in Mexico, and subsequently suffered from dehydration. The local physician instructed him to rehydrate with carbonated soft drinks, leading him to wonder if there wasn't a more suitable beverage to quickly replenish lost electrolytes and water to the body. Also, he noticed that doctors would drink intravenous solution to refresh themselves after finishing surgery. With this as the inspiration, the idea to develop a "drinkable IV" was born. The product was developed around this concept, a beverage close to the composition of the body's natural fluids that would easily replace lost electrolytes and water. Japan in the late 1970s was experiencing an economic boom, leading to a growing interest in health, sports and outdoor leisure activities amongst the general public. On seeing people exercising and perspiring more, Otsuka set their target on developing a healthy beverage that could be easily consumed as a part of daily life. Thus, in 1980, POCARI SWEAT was launched.

Popularizing the product through sustained marketing

While there was growing interest in healthy living, consumers had neither seen nor tasted a product like this before, and initially they rejected it out of hand. Otsuka realized that to create a new market, first consumers needed to appreciate the benefits of the product. So the POCARI SWEAT team researched everyday conditions in which people sweat and sought to convey the concept behind the product, and the importance of replacing lost electrolytes and water. Staff handed out chilled sample bottles at saunas, baseball stadiums, and other places where people were sweating from heat and exercise, in addition to handing out samples to shoppers. In total, 30 million bottles were distributed in 1980, and after a sustained effort, customers at sports facilities responded well by championing the product. POCARI SWEAT was pitched as a drinkable sweat replacement that satisfies when and where it is most needed and most effective. The product gradually gained traction and then, two years after its debut, became a big hit. This marked Otsuka's successful development of an entirely new market for electrolyte-replacement drinks. Bringing this product to market had been a big challenge. Indeed, at the time, electrolyte and fluid replacement in sports weren't taken seriously in Japan. However, with expertise gleaned from years in the intravenous solutions business, and by carrying out awareness-raising activities, Otsuka effectively demonstrated the need for an electrolyte and fluid drink for athletes to avoid dehydration and sustain their performance. Today, proper hydration is an essential component of any athlete's training regimen.

Keeping the key concept front and center

The design of the POCARI SWEAT logo is a visual representation of the product's functionality. The use of "cool" colors at the time of launch was considered inappropriate for food products. The blue represents the ocean, and the white suggests a wave. The white wave is also an abstract representation of the curve of a graph showing the absorption rate of pure water versus that of POCARI SWEAT. In this way, the company has retained its focus on universal concepts while continuously ensuring that products stay fresh and new. Otsuka has continued to innovate around POCARI SWEAT to meet society's changing needs, and effectively communicate the benefits of these products to consumers.

Awareness-raising activities based on scientific evidence

Since introducing POCARI SWEAT, Otsuka has continued research on electrolyte and fluid replacement. Resulting data provides additional evidence that the product may be useful in dry environments or long-haul air travel and the related risks of pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis*. In 1992, the term "heat disorders" was largely unknown in Japan. Otsuka was the first private corporation to cooperate with the Japan Sports Association to form a research team dedicated to finding countermeasures to heat disorders associated with sporting activities. Seeking to promote a wider understanding of heat disorders, we continue to share information about the importance of electrolyte and water replenishment. Today still, in addition to sports we provide guidance on safe hydration in the workplace and for the elderly. Our personnel visit various locations, holding lectures and disseminating the latest information on effective hydration.

The product gains ground in the unique context of each country

Just two years after the Japan launch, POCARI SWEAT was launched overseas. Today, it is available across the globe, popular in particular in Asia. For example, in Indonesia, the product is widely used as a means to recuperate from symptoms such as fever and diarrhea. By rolling out the product to meet the needs of regional customs and cultures, it is now viewed as an indispensable health drink internationally.

  1. 1Economy class syndrome

POCARI SWEAT

Developed with the concept of being a beverage that replaces electrolytes and water lost to sweat. It is now sold in over 20 countries and regions*2 worldwide.

  1. 2As of December 2017

Rehydrate with POCARI SWEAT JELLY

In 2016, a new method of replacing sweat in the form of a jelly, combining hydration with convenience, portability, and a way to satisfy your hunger.

For everyday use POCARI SWEAT ION WATER

With a lightly sweet flavor, it is delicious when consumed as is, at room temperature. Like the original, it smoothly replenishes electrolytes and water.