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The ‘Sweat’ you drink: Inside the meteoric rise of Asia’s answer to Gatorade

But if you look very closely at a different scene showing future McFly as he video-conferences a co-worker in 2015, another brand makes a cameo appearance.

That drink was called Pocari Sweat. And despite its name — unappetizing to native English speakers — it’s a well-known Japanese sports drink across Asia and the Middle East.

Though the film’s creators didn’t have a product placement deal with Pocari Sweat, they had given their art department a general directive to include Japanese elements in the scenes depicting 2015, says Bob Gale, the producer and writer of “Back to the Future II.”

The Japanese powerhouse of the ’80s didn’t last, but Pocari went on to become a force in the sports beverage market.

Last year, 270 million bottles were distributed across more than 20 countries and regions. Around the same number were distributed in Japan, according to Otsuka Pharmaceutical, the Japanese company that makes it. Amid the pandemic, the company donated more than 1.2 million bottles to hospitals and governments across its markets.

Launched in 1980, Pocari Sweat was inspired by the rehydrating effects of an IV solution. The ingredients include water, sugar, citric acid, magnesium, calcium and sodium. Pocari replenishes water and electrolytes — a set of minerals your body needs to function — lost through sweat.

The beverage is to many Asians what Gatorade is to Americans, and Lucozade is to the British.

But, the brand, which turns 40 this year, is virtually unheard of in the West.

A drink that mimics sweat

  • Four Pocari Sweat facts

  • 1980

    Pocari Sweat is launched in Japan.

  • 1982

    Otsuka starts exporting Pocari Sweat to its first overseas markets in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

  • 1990s

    Pocari Sweat becomes the first non-alcoholic drink in Japan to hit a cumulative shipment value of over $1 billion.

  • 2020

    Otsuka establishes a health beverage subsidiary in Mexico, the country that sparked the idea for Pocari Sweat.

Source: Otsuka Pharmaceutical

Pocari’s story starts with Rokuro Harima, an Otsuka employee who got food poisoning during a business trip to Mexico in the 1970s.

At hospital, doctors told Harima to replenish his energy with fizzy soda drinks. But when Harima spotted a doctor drinking from a pouch of IV solution to rehydrate himself after performing surgery, he had an idea.

Otsuka had also been producing IV solutions for hospitals since 1946. Harima put two and two together: He wanted to create a tasty, drinkable IV.

In the 1960s, he had helped fine-tune the flavor of Otsuka’s “Oronamin C,” a carbonated nutritional drink targeted at weary businessmen needing a midday pick-me-up. Now the “king of taste,” as his peers called him, had set his sights on creating a new market in Japan.

Gatorade had been sold in the US since the 1960s. But in Japan in the 1970s, sports drinks were uncharted territory.

Read More:The ‘Sweat’ you drink: Inside the meteoric rise of Asia’s answer to Gatorade

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