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Entrepreneur Michelle McBride (center) utilized CDR’s expertise in dairy ingredients and beverages as she formulated her new sports drink. Here, McBride is pictured with K.J. Burrington (left) and Vic Grassman (right) at CDR in 2018. Photo courtesy of CDR.

GoodSport, a new sports drink developed in part at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Dairy Research, has the potential to turn the sports hydration industry on its head. Entrepreneur Michelle McBride got the idea for GoodSport when her son started playing baseball.

“We didn’t want him drinking traditional sports drinks because they’re filled with artificial ingredients and too much sugar,” McBride said. “So, we tried some natural options, but he didn’t like the taste and I learned that they provided no better hydration than plain water.”

She studied up on hydration and found that milk is one of the most hydrating beverages available. Of particular interest was the work of Ron Maughan, a professor at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, who developed a tool called the Beverage Hydration Index. The index, which Maughan used to compare the hydration efficacy of sports drinks, water, milk and other beverages, showed that milk was extremely efficacious in rehydrating the human body.

“When I saw that, I thought, ‘Wow! Milk is packed with electrolytes and all of these other nutrients. I really should be able to make a sports drink out of it,’” McBride remembers.

McBride knew that developing a new product would be a serious undertaking. She enlisted the help of several experts, including an experienced sports nutrition scientist.

McBride started working with a lab in her home state to formulate prototypes out of milk. “They tasted pretty good, but I knew it wasn’t quite right – they were still milky,” McBride said. “I started looking for a dairy scientist who could help me and it was suggested that I reach out to the Center for Dairy Research.”

Support from CDR

The Center for Dairy Research (CDR), a center located on the UW–Madison campus, offers dairy foods and beverages companies access to scientific expertise in dairy research, technical support and education. CDR is funded by dairy farmers through the dairy check-off program and partners such as the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and the National Dairy Council. It is the center’s goal to help companies and start-ups such as GoodSport to bring innovative, nutritious and profitable products utilizing dairy to the global marketplace.

At CDR, McBride was connected with K.J. Burrington who was CDR’s Dairy Ingredients, Beverages and Cultured Products Coordinator, and Vic Grassman, manager of the TURBO Program, a business accelerator and business support program at CDR. When McBride shared her idea of creating a sports drink using milk at the initial meeting at CDR, Burrington immediately knew McBride was on to something.

“I turned to Michelle and told her ‘I’ve been waiting 15 years for someone to bring this idea to us,’” Burrington said.

However, Burrington knew that using skim milk in the formulation would not provide the appearance, flavor or mouthfeel of typical sports hydration drinks. Instead, she suggested that milk permeate would provide the right sensory experience along with the carbohydrates and electrolytes needed to make a shelf-stable, sports hydration beverage.

So, McBride and Burrington created a new formulation that utilized milk permeate and McBride was pleased with the look of the product. Next was the taste test.

“I remember K.J. and I toasted cheers with our little sample cups and then we tasted it,” McBride said. “Right away I knew we had done it and I literally cried tears of joy right there with K.J. in the lab. I was so happy.”

Utilizing the Natural Goodness of Milk

Milk permeate is generated via the ultrafiltration of milk. In this process, the fat and protein is filtered out and used in other applications. What’s left is milk permeate, which contains essential vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. It has a subtle, clean flavor with milk’s natural nutrients and electrolytes, which makes it a perfect candidate as an ingredient in a sports drink.

“It’s a really great tasting, refreshing and effective sports drink,” Burrington said. “The beauty of it is all the nutrients found in this drink are naturally found in milk.”

Utilizing milk permeate also helps boost the sustainability efforts of the dairy industry. In fact, some dairy companies dispose of their milk permeate because they don’t have a market for it. Products like GoodSport will help increase the value of milk permeate.

“We’re helping to create another beverage usage occasion for milk, which is refreshment and hydration,” McBride said. “This could be a big opportunity for dairy.”

More Hydrating than Other Sports Drinks

Early results indicate that GoodSport is something of a revolutionary product. With support from Dairy Management, Inc., Penn State University studied the hydration efficacy of a milk permeate-based hydration solution (GoodSport) by testing it against water and a traditional carbohydrate-based sports drink. The results of the Penn State study were published in May 2020 by Nutrients, a peer-reviewed journal focused on human nutrition. McBride was blown away by the results.

“The study showed that GoodSport provides rapid and significantly long-lasting hydration,” McBride said. “They found that GoodSport stays in the body and provides hydration more than two hours after it’s consumed. The results were significant.”

Essentially, the study found that the combination of electrolytes and carbohydrates naturally found in milk permeate is very effective at hydrating at the cellular level. GoodSport promotes the body’s cells ability to retain and hold more fluid providing superior hydration.

“There’s real science that goes on behind hydration,” McBride said. “It’s very important that you have the right type and level of electrolytes and the right balance of carbohydrates. We’re able to deliver that in every bottle of GoodSport from the natural goodness of milk.”

GoodSport stands out compared to leading sports drinks. For example, it is an excellent source of B vitamins and a good source of calcium. It contains three times the amount of electrolytes and 33 percent less sugar than traditional sports drinks. “We don’t add any sugar, we just have the natural sugars from milk,” McBride said.

Another important point is that GoodSport is a lactose free and shelf stable product. It can be found on the shelf with other sports drinks.

Product Development Support

A bottle of lemon lime flavored GoodSport. Photo courtesy of Michelle McBride.

Looking back on the product development phase, McBride is grateful that she was connected with CDR.

“We had help troubleshooting a ton of issues that will come up with any dairy project,” McBride said. “And any one of those issues can seem insurmountable if you’re trying to solve them by yourself.”

The GoodSport project also received help from CDR’s TURBO program. “That program really enables entrepreneurs working in dairy to have access to incredible expertise,” McBride said. “It really is almost unheard of.”

In addition to bringing dairy into the sports drink industry, GoodSport is also focused on bringing positive change to sports and athletics. “We are certainly trying to elevate the world of sports nutrition, but we also want to bring greater purpose to the world of sports in general,” McBride said. “We’re really focused on inspiring a more positive sports culture.”

GoodSport is available nationally on Amazon and goodsport.com and will be available this spring at select Midwest retailers.

Note: This article is posted on the CALS News website with permission from the Center for Dairy Research. The article was originally published in the spring 2021 issue of CDR’s Dairy Pipeline newsletter.