Inspired by an IV-drip: the story behind Pocari Sweat, the iconic sports drink that replenishes your body

It’s an indispensable part of Japanese culture - and your sports routine.

| Guan Zhen Tan | Sponsored | July 23, 2021, 11:59 AM

Chances are, you’ve seen Pocari Sweat on your supermarket shelves, convenience store shelves, and vending machines.

Even the anime you watch may include subtle references to the iconic drink:

Screenshot courtesy of Pocari Sweat

It probably makes you wonder, how did Pocari Sweat even become the thing, or rather, the drink whenever sports or athletics is mentioned?

Inspired by an I.V. drip, now one of Asia’s most popular sports drinks

Photo courtesy of Pocari Sweat

Otsuka Pharmaceutical in Japan first developed Pocari Sweat, and the name of the drink itself is a clue as to what it does.

“Sweat” is simply a nod to what the drink does - to replenish nutrients and electrolytes that were lost through sweat and perspiration, as the drink is made up of an ideal balance of ions to replenish what the body needs.

Infographic courtesy of Pocari Sweat

The origin story of Pocari Sweat can be traced back to over 40 years ago. An Otsuka Pharmaceutical researcher, Rokuro Harima was on a business trip to Mexico, when he was hospitalized due to diarrhea.

Graphic courtesy of Pocari Sweat

The doctor told him to make sure he got enough water and nutrition, but just gave him a regular carbonated drink.

The researcher thought about how much better it would be if he had an easy-to-drink beverage which could help to rehydrate himself and provide the nutrients needed.

Graphic courtesy of Pocari Sweat

The proverbial lightbulb moment came when he saw a doctor drinking a pouch of I.V. solution to rehydrate himself after finishing surgery; it was this that gave him the idea for a drinkable I.V. solution.

Graphic courtesy of Pocari Sweat

With Otsuka Pharmaceutical being a leading company in the I.V. Solutions business, Harima worked with other researchers, and began to develop a beverage that could replenish the water and electrolytes lost through perspiration.

It was tough. It was only after 1000 early variations of the drink were created, that Pocari Sweat officially hit the shelves in 1980.

Ad courtesy of Pocari Sweat

This mainly involved getting the public to appreciate its taste, purpose and even colour. There wasn’t any kind of sports drink like that at that point in time, and blue wasn’t seen as something attractive or appetising for a beverage can.

Countless samples were given out at saunas, sporting events, and even to people right at their own home, with salespeople going door-to-door to distribute them, getting consumers to recognise Pocari Sweat’s health benefits, such as combating dehydration and even hangovers.

It paid off.

By the mid-90s, Pocari Sweat hit a cumulative shipment value in excess of US$1 billion.

It was then distributed in Hong Kong, then Singapore and South Korea.

The packaging and product line also evolved over the years, with drink sachets, jellies and a new variation: Pocari Sweat ion water, hitting the shelves.

Photo courtesy of Pocari Sweat

Using innovative ways and pop culture to engage with consumers

Now, Pocari Sweat is everywhere. It’s pretty much a big part of popular culture, and Pocari Sweat continues to cement its presence in anything and everything be it lifestyle or sports-related.

You’re bound to see tributes or references to the drink appearing in sports-related shows.

Avid fans of anime and Japanese pop culture will notice the ubiquitous presence of the beverage, which is something that arguably can’t be replaced.

The drink has appeared in multiple anime such as Haikyuu! and Cheer Danshi.

Most recently, the drink has made an official appearance at the hit anime Cells at Work! Episode 11, which tells the story of how human-like cells in the body combat heat-stroke with Pocari Sweat.

It’s hard to think of any other sports drink that has as much cultural impact as Pocari Sweat, in Japan and in Singapore.

Even up to today, the drink finds innovative ways to inspire the next generation of active consumers in the region to follow their aspirations, as seen in this gorgeous commercial by Pocari Sweat Indonesia:

Pocari Sweat and Supporting Sports in Singapore

It’s not just another flavoured sports beverage either.

Especially in Singapore’s weather, where we tend to perspire more, this makes the drink even better as a beverage of choice as it can compensate for the loss of electrolytes and water.

Pocari Sweat supported SAA Athletes, Soh Rui Yong’s national record-breaking achievement at Seoul Marathon 2019, and Neo Jie Shi’s journey to the 2016 Olympic Games. Photo courtesy of Pocari Sweat.

Pocari Sweat has been actively supporting the sporting scene and Singaporean athletes like Soh Rui Yong’s national record-breaking achievement at Seoul Marathon 2019, and Neo Jie Shi’s journey to the 2016 Olympic Games, including teaming up with Singapore Athletics Association (SAA) since 2019.

Soh who also recently broke the men’s 5,000m national record on July 17 reflected after the race, “Pocari Sweat has been an important part of my sporting journey as I have been using it every day in my training since 2019. The hydration support especially helped me prepare for this race because at race start, the temperature was 30 degrees Celsius! But I did my best to keep my cool both mentally and physically with 4 cold showers and multiple bottles of cold Pocari Sweat before the race.”

Since May 2021, Sports Medicine Association Singapore (SMAS) and Pocari Sweat have partnered to educate on appropriate hydration techniques and share their sports know-how with not only high-performance athletes, but recreational sports participants, so that everyone can make better-informed choices.

POCARI SWEAT and SMAS signing ceremony during the SMAS Sports Medicine Series Virtual Seminar on May 29, 2021. Screenshot courtesy of Pocari Sweat

SMAS President Dr. Dinesh Sirisena adds, “As a professional sports medicine and sports science association, we believe that Pocari Sweat rehydrates suitably after exercise, especially in hot climates like Singapore. We are excited to work with Pocari Sweat to share sports science research and educate the general public about the benefits of sports and exercise.”

With Pocari Sweat joining forces with various organizations to promote sports, stay tuned to their social media pages @PocariSG to learn about upcoming activities you can join like SMAS’ Annual Symposium in September 2021.

Click here to find out why it’s better for you today.

This article is brought to you by Pocari Sweat, which reminds this writer that hydration is more than just water.

Top image courtesy of Pocari Sweat