One of the largest rivalries in soft drink history has spilled into the flavored water business. But this isn’t just any flavored water, it’s water that’s supposed to not only rehydrate you, but also supply your body with much-needed vitamins and minerals. Welcome to the wonderful world of non-carbonated water beverages, where marketing schemes have switched from enticing athletes to hooking anyone looking for a low-calorie drink or snack beverage.
Marketed under the Quaker Oats Company, (which is part of PepsiCo), Gatorade offers Propel, a flavored water providing various vitamins and minerals. With hopes to tap into the bottled water market, Propel was released to the public in 2000. Propel featured fewer calories, less sugar content and less carbs than regular Gatorade. In 2002, the product made more than $100 million in sales. PepsiCo claims that the product is “fitness formulated,” “lightly flavored,” and “vitamin enhanced.”
The Coca-Cola based company of Powerade released Powerade Option to the public in 2005. They obviously felt that they needed to create a bit of competition for their rivals at PepsiCo. Marketing their product as a “low-calorie sports drink,” they’ve been trying to make leeway on the popular Propel brand.
What’s In These Waters, Anyways?
Calories: Both Propel and Option offer 10 calories per 8 ounce serving.
Carbohydrates: Propel contains 3 grams, while Option contains only 2 grams.
Sodium: Propel contains 35mg to Option’s 50mg.
Sugar: Both Propel and Option contain 2 grams of sugar.
So you may ask yourself what contributes to the “lightly” sweetened taste within these low-calorie water drinks. Both of these products contain sugar, as well as artificial sweeteners. You just have to separate the technical jargon from the real deal. The second ingredient listed in both of the waters is simply sugar. Option contains high fructose corn syrup (sugar!) while Propel lists sucrose syrup as their second ingredient (table sugar!). There are also artificial sweeteners added to both products. The waters contain sucralose (Splenda), as well as acesulfame potassium (also known as Ace-K). This leads one to believe, why is sugar being used in “healthy water?”
Now, let’s get to the vitamin content. When marketing a product as “fitness water,” you’re going to have to put some electrolytes and other vitamins in there to make a difference in the body. Option offers 10% of niacin, 10% of vitamin B12, 10% of vitamin B6, and 35 mg of potassium per serving. Propel contains 10% of vitamin C, 25% of niacin, 4% of vitamin B12, 25% of vitamin B6, 10% of vitamin E, and 25% of pantothenic acid. When it comes to a better offering of vitamins and lower sodium, Propel does the trick, making it a more desirable choice for body replenishment.
I’ve tasted the berry-flavored Gatorade Propel, as well as the strawberry-flavored Powerade Option. Propel tastes more like water to me than Option. I would have to agree with the company that it does offer a lightly flavored water product. As for Option, it definitely has a distinct artificial sweetener taste that may come off too sweet for some. It tastes better than regular Gatorade, but not better than regular Powerade. They are both acceptable as far as taste goes, but sometimes you may feel a bit of acidity on the tip of your tongue with Propel.
Propel offers a better variety of flavors than Option, including: Berry; Black Cherry; Grape; Kiwi Strawberry; Lemon; Melon; and Peach. Although I am only familiar with the berry-flavored Propel, I have heard that Kiwi Strawberry is pretty good. As for Option, you will only be able to choose from three flavors: strawberry, lemon, and black cherry.
Bottles for these products usually cost between 99 cents to $1.50. A six-pack of Option can be found around $4.29, while a six-pack of Propel runs about $3.99. The average-sized Option bottle contains close to 3 more ounces than Propel, so if they happen to be the same price, you know where you’ll get more for your money.
Propel and Option both offer easy hand control of their products with easy-to-grip bottles. The Option bottle is larger than the Propel. If you like to guzzle your drinks, you will be pleased with the larger mouth of the Option bottle. I, however, do not like my beverage spilling down my neck and onto my shirt, which may occur if you go at it too fast.
Annoying gimmicks alert! Powerade Option keeps comparing their calorie content to that of “other leading sports drinks, ” such as Gatorade. Of course Option will contain less calories; it’s flavored water! Isn’t it better to prove a point when you are directly comparing your product with that of the same nature: flavored water vs flavored water and not flavored water vs sugary sports drink?
While you may be familiar with the advertising of Propel (drops of Propel hit the ground and athletes emerge from the splashes), you may really have to scratch your brain to remember an Option commercial. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. I first tried Option because it was on sale and the bottle looked really big. I tried Propel, not because of the entertaining and clever commercials, but because I had a buy 1, get 1 free coupon.
The reason why you may have not seen an Option commercial and you’ve been saturated with visions of Propel is because in 2005, Powerade spent less than $20 million on ads, while Gatorade put in a whopping $180 million towards their advertisements. Option marketing is so poor that PepsiCo took the water drink’s company to court over false advertising (and won).
The Bottom Line: I’ve tasted both and would drink each of them again (when on sale), but I don’t feel any difference in my body when drinking these products. I prefer regular ol’ unflavored water.