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The 'Sweat' you drink: Inside the meteoric rise of Asia's answer to Gatorade

August 2, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Launched in 1980, Pocari Sweat is a force in the sports beverage market across Asia and the Middle East. But while the beverage turns 40 this year, it's virtually unheard of in the West.

That drink was called Pocari Sweat.

Though the film's creators didn't have a product placement deal with Pocari Sweat, they had given their art department a general directive to include Japanese elements in the scenes depicting 2015, says Bob Gale, the producer and writer of "Back to the Future II. "

The Japanese powerhouse of the '80s didn't last, but Pocari went on to become a force in the sports beverage market.

Non-alcoholic carbonated beverages, such as Coca-Cola and Mitsuya Cider, and orange and apple juices dominated the domestic market, according to the Japan Soft Drink Association (JSDA).

"Because this drink category didn't exist in Japan, people didn't know what to make of it," says Gilbert.

Shoppers bought drinks at mom and pop stores, so Otsuka made an effort to reach out to people and familiarize them with Pocari's taste and function," says Kiyomi Kai, a spokeswoman at the JSDA.

In the mid-1990s, Pocari Sweat became Japan's first domestically produced non-alcoholic drink to hit a cumulative shipment value of over $1 billion.

Sold primarily in hot countries across Asia and the Middle East, Gilbert says the hydrating message behind Pocari products — which now include powder and jelly — speak to those markets.

Pocari Sweat was launched in Japan as the economy boomed.

Otsuka saw huge potential in Indonesia, a country of 273 million people, which is now the company's biggest market outside Japan.

For example, it didn't make sense to advertise Pocari Sweat to Indonesians as a means to rehydrate after a bath or when they had a hangover, as they did in Japan and the Philippines.

Spotting an opportunity in the market, Otsuka partnered with healthcare experts and government officials to promote Pocari Sweat's hydrating powers.

It partnered with Otsuka between 2015 and 2018 to produce a series of campaigns to expand Pocari Sweat's appeal.

In 2018, Olrange launched a series of online videos — dubbed "the most kawaii (cute) web series in Indonesia" — featuring Haruka Nakagawa and Yukari Sasou, two Japanese Pocari Sweat ambassadors and celebrities popular in Indonesia.

Four decades ago, there were only five types of soft drinks — a category that JSDA says includes carbonated beverages as well as teas and mineral water — competing for space in Japan's beverage market.

In Japan, Pocari Sweat is stocked in convenience stores, vending machines, supermarkets and drug stores.

"Some brands are designed specifically for the convenience store market, so they have a three-to-six month lifespan for a particular recipe, but Pocari Sweat isn't like that," says Larke, who is also the editor of intelligence website JapanConsuming.

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