A steady stream of sales: What’s moving in the world of hydration

Find out what specialty retailers in the hottest and/or driest parts of the country are seeing as the top trends and sellers in the hydration category
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Whether your retail customers are biking, hiking, running, paddleboarding, working out, practicing yoga or somehow doing all on the same outing, one thing they all share in common is the need to stay hydrated during their activity.

This has led to a steady stream of sales in the hydration category at specialty retail, encompassing everything from water bottles and bladder-hosting hydration packs to electrolyte mixes and other supplements all designed to keep water flowing in users’ systems as readily as adrenaline.

According to analyst group Leisure Trends, sales of hydration gear — including hands-free (backpacks, etc.); hands-on (bottles, canteens, etc.); and accessories and reservoirs — have grown 9.7 percent since 2011 to $114 million in 2013, with both bottles and packs leading the charge equally in percentage growth, although bottles and canteens are still double the total market in sales.

To break down what trends are surfacing in this thirst-quenching category, we sleuthed out retailers in some of the hottest and/or driest parts country for their take on what’s moving off the shelves to help consumers combat dehydration.

In Moab, Utah, GearHeads manager Steve Kennedy said bottles are its bread and butter, from conventional Nalgenes to insulated offerings. “We sell bottles all day long,” he said, giving a nod to such brands as HydroFlask, Klean Kanteen and more. “And our sales are definitely increasing…SKU-wise, we sell more of them than almost anything.

While conventional bottles are the top seller, insulated bottles “are also picking up steam,” Kennedy said. He also points to Platypus’s line of soft bottles and MSR bladders as doing well, in particular the latter’s 2-, 4-, 6- and 10-liter Dromedary bags.

PlatypusSoftBottle

On the hands-free front, Kennedy said continuing refinements to products from brands such as CamelBak and Osprey are also leading to increased sales — especially their use-specific products for such activities as biking, hiking and trail running.

“Osprey, in particular, has done a great job with its designs as far as comfort and features,” he said. “Especially in the hiking category.” He tips his hat to new company Geigerrig for an “unbreakable bladder you can step on” as well as an air pump pressurizing the bladder so you don’t have to suck on it. And he credits CamelBak for coming to market with a new quarter-turn cap that locks on with a simple 90-degree twist rather than previous fully threaded offerings that were often hard to open.

OspreyHydraulics

He adds that most bladders now also have quick-connect hoses, which in combination with wide-open, zip or roll-down mouths, such as Platypus and Hydrapak, allows for easy cleaning.

Hydrapakwidemouth

This proves especially handy for customers increasingly chasing another hydration product: electrolyte-replenishing drink mixes from the likes of Nuun, CamelBak, Gu, Gatorade and more. As for those elixirs, he said there’s not much difference sales-wise between powders and tablets, rather, “it’s all about what customers are used to using.”

NuunAllDay

In the Southeast where much more humidity is present but the high temps are just as draining, trends are similar said Rob Singer, brand manager at Rock/Creek Outfitters in Chattanooga, Tenn. Bottles sell best, he said, but reservoir packs and soft flasks from more running- and fitness-focused brands such as Ultimate Direction and Nathan are also selling well. “Hydration is a high velocity category for us,” he said, adding that the store has an entire wall devoted to the niche. “We carry a large variety for a multitude of uses. Bottles, especially, can get pretty out of hand on the inventory side.”

SalomonHydrapak_SoftFlask

Trend-wise, he points to such innovations as soft flasks in vests from Salomon and Hydrapak that conform to your body and shrink as you drink. Plus, Nathan's ergo-shaped, hand-held bottles for ultra-runners are proving fruitful. Osprey’s magnetic sternum strap, which attaches the bite valve magnetically to the chest strap, also is a popular feature

NathanVaporShot2

Out West, in the drought-ridden Sierra Nevada, where water this year is at even more of a premium, hydration equipment sales have been strong.

“Some of the insulated water bottles coming out are proving to be especially popular, in cold months and warm,” said Reno Mountain Sports manager Scott Schwartz. “You can put ice cubes in them and they’ll stay there all day. We’re also seeing them used as lifestyle purchases, with people using them for things like cocktails.”

--Eugene Buchanan

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