Is it packaging, or is it a durable product? Durable, refillable containers with disposable refill packs certainly blur the line. This new fitness drink system from PepsiCo’s high-profile active lifestyle brand Gatorade is again a little bit of both, and frankly, most of the LED electronic whizzbang gadgetry behind it is more of a durable product than a package. One doesn’t simply dispose of that kind of tech. But packaging plays at least a supporting actor’s role in the system, and it’s just too cool not to cover.
Launched in early October, the Smart Gx Bottle system is yet another example of an emerging category of durable containers that are designed to be refilled by concentrated packaged product to avoid any accusations of ‘shipping water.’ In this case, concentrated, electrolyte-rich Gatorade formula is intended to be introduced to tap water you fill in your home via a pod puncture system, not that far removed from coffee pods.
Gatorade Gx is a personalized hydration tracker in bottle form, leveraging what the company says is a first-of-its-kind light-up cap to remind athletes of their daily recommended hydration goal and track their progress throughout the day. The bottle also fully integrates into the Gx App for smartphones, which updates in real-time as the contents are consumed to provide personalized hydration recommendations based on each athlete’s unique hydration needs.
Users can make their Smart Gx Bottle discoverable to their phone by holding down the button on the cap until they see flashing blue lights (typically around eight seconds). Once the consumer’s Smart Gx Bottle is discoverable, he or she only needs to tap the “Find My Smart Gx Bottle” button to connect the bottle to the Gx app. Once the app has located the bottle, they complete the pairing by clicking the “Connect My Smart Gx Bottle” button on the phone.
“We were inspired to make a smart bottle that is unique to each individual athlete’s needs. Our bottle design takes cues from the beloved evergreen Gx squeeze bottles, including the 30-oz volume capacity, the flip cap with built-in pod piercer, and the ergonomic waistline,” says Sean Huls, Senior Design Director at PepsiCo.
The durable, reusable body of the smart bottle is polypropylene (PP) plus an additive called Vistamaxx, a semi-crystalline copolymer from ExxonMobil Chemical. A colorant added at 0.25% to match the classic Gatorade green. The bottle is adorned with TPE grip panels, and the decoration is ink printed in PE film and coated with heat-activated adhesive. The grip panels feature a fingerprint design which reinforces the theme of personalization seen throughout the bottle.
“Where we’ve really amplified the design is within the Gx Smart Bottle cap, which completes the Gx ecosystem,” Huls says. “We went through a few iterations of the smart cap to ensure its functionality and provide athletes with accurate hydration tracking and notifications, as well as an ergonomic fit during exercise. The result is an LED-powered volume and consumption tracking system. The display offers lighting options that can be [personalized by each user and a comfortable fingerprint design on the grip panels to reinforce the theme of customization. Additionally, with the connection to the Gx app, a hydration schedule can be recommended based on sweat profile, activity, and environmental and heat conditions.”
Regarding materials used in the smart cap, the bottom and top cap in black 7C is PP, the spring is stainless steel, the puck (top and bottom, where the electronic components go) is tritan, an impact-resistant, BPA-free plastic that should withstand the beating active sports and fitness types might dish out. The O-rings in the tritan puck are silicone, the over-molded gasket is TPE, the pins and spring are stainless steel 304, the valve is silicone, the ice shield is PP, the latch is PP, and the ID ring ABS.
The cap of the bottle uses a proprietary sensor technology that calculates how much liquid is in the bottle when it’s resting on a flat surface. To do so, the sensor measures the distance between it and the top of the liquid, then subtracts that from the bottle’s known total volume. This measurement determines how much liquid has been consumed over a period of time, and it’s all data that is fed into the app for tracking. The lid then communicates to the GX App via Bluetooth.
Meanwhile, the Gx System tailors personalized hydration recommendations based on each user’s unique sweat profile, which is discoverable via a wearable patch device comfortably affixed to the consumer’s skin. The Gx patch uses a visual scan from Gx App, through the smartphone camera, to diagnose sweat contents and volume. While Gatorade may be suggested based on the quantity of electrolytes lost in sweat, it is not the only hydration solution recommended by the Gx App.
So where’s the packaging? And is it recyclable?
As part of the Gx system, Gatorade offers a PET pod filled with concentrated, ready-to-mix liquid in several popular-favorite Gatorade formulas. The lidding on the Pod is an HDPE resin, Dow 17450N, plus an orange colorant.
A piercer cap, part of the closure, punctures the pod when the consumer closes into the system, allowing the formula to mix with water. What the company calls an “X” piercer in the bottle cap lid pierces the cap of the pod to release concentrate into water in the bottle. The system is designed to get most, not quite all, of the concentrate out of the pod when pierced. Athlete’s typically give the system “a little jiggle” to make sure all pod fluid is released into bottle before recycling the pod and closing the Gx bottle lid.
Gx pods can be recycled through TerraCycle, who collects the pods and recycles them into raw formats that manufacturers use to make new products. The company offers these directions to consumers wishing to recycle the pods:
• Every Gx pod purchase includes a TerraCycle pre-paid shipping label for recycling your empties.
• Create an account with TerraCycle.
• Collect your empty Gx Pods and pack them in any box you have.
• Log into your TerraCycle account to download & print a pre-paid shipping label.
• Seal up your box & affix the shipping label onto it.
• Ship the box via UPS.
To recharge a Smart Gx Bottle, a consumer needs to take the USB side of the charging cable and insert it into a powered USB port. They bring the magnetized charging end of the cable near the charging contact on the cap, and it will pull itself into place and begin charging. On average, the Smart Gx Bottle can go three to five days on a single charge, though usage and frequency of charging can impact this.
The Smart Gx Bottle comes in a kit including the bottle, Gx pods, two Gx sweat patches, and is available now on Gatorade.com or retail for $69.99. Users can purchase three additional Gx pod packs (four pods in each pack) on Gatorade.com for $21.00. PW