Pickles have hovered around the fringe of sports nutrition ingredient trends for a few years now. However, they may be experiencing a second wind as a credible functional ingredient.

US-based premium pickle brand Grillo’s Pickles is launching a line of cold-pressed pickle vinegar drinks in order to reimagine pickle consumption and explore cross-category opportunities. The beverages will be positioned as health drinks, as well as sports beverages suitable for pre- and post-workouts.

The benefits of pickle juice, or the brine in which pickles are cured, have been touted in recent years as a credible sports drink alternative. Its high sodium content can purportedly help replenish the fluids lost during exercise, thus preventing dehydration. In addition, the vinegar in pickle juice may block the neurological signal that triggers muscle cramps. Nevertheless, pickle beverages have yet to garner the reputation as a natural alternative to synthetic sports drinks in the way that, for example, coconut water has gained.

However, this has the potential to change as consumer attitudes towards certain production methods and ingredients evolve. Cold-pressed juice, for example, has seized consumer attention as it preserves more of the vitamins and enzymes that can get destroyed by commercial juicing methods. As a result, over half (54%) of global consumers consider cold-pressed food and drinks to be “very” or “somewhat appealing”, according to GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 global consumer survey.

More significantly though, pickles stand to benefit from strong consumer interest in fermented foods, which are highly regarded for their digestive health benefits. Indicative of this, the majority (56%) of global consumers believe that apple cider vinegar will have a positive impact on their health (GlobalData 2019 Q3 global consumer survey).

The sports nutrition segment is arguably overdue for a sensory refresh and plant-based push, and pickles may well be the ingredient to drive this.

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