Electrolytes in the spotlight: China’s food industry association to set industry standards for drinks

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

A picture showing two bottles of isotonic energy drinks. © Getty Images
A picture showing two bottles of isotonic energy drinks. © Getty Images

Related tags electrolytes hydration functional beverage

China National Food Industry Association (CNFIA) is to set industry standards for electrolyte beverages, including its definition, technical and manufacturing, testing, labelling, and packaging requirements.

There has been a renewed interest in electrolyte beverages across China. Currently, local brand Genki Forest’s Alienergy is a market leader in the category.

Other well-known brands include Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s Pocari Sweat and the company said that the product was a key factor driving strong growth in its nutraceutical business​ in FY2023, while Danone has also added an electrolyte drink SKU under its Mizone brand. ​ 

Electrolytes beverages are usually consumed as a sports drink to replenish the loss in electrolytes post-exercise.

However, in China, it is not just seen as a sports drink, but also consumed after recovering from diarrhoea and fever to replenish electrolytes loss as recommended by the government in its COVID-19 health advisory​.

In its industry standards drafted, the CNFIA said that when disintegrated, electrolytes would produce minerals that are required for the normal physiological functions in humans, including calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium.

In the same vein, electrolytes beverage is then a drink that contains electrolytes required by the human body to replenish the loss of electrolytes and consumed for hydration purpose.

According to its announcement, electrolyte beverages could be divided into five categories, including carbonated and non-carbonated versions and solid drinks – meaning drinks that are made by dissolving powder sachet. 

The main ingredients include sugar, including starch sugar, sugar alcohol, food nutrient additives, and sweetener.

The industry standard draft is currently open for public consultation which closes on March 8.

Existing standards

In China, there is currently only a national or guobiao (GB) standard that simply states the different types of electrolyte beverages under the “General Standard for Beverage”.

By setting a specific industry standard for electrolyte beverages, the CNFIA said this could set the path for innovation and improve the safety and quality of these products. This could better regulate the industry’s development and fulfil consumer demands.

The association said that it has began preparation for setting the industry standards as early as June 2022 but the process has been delayed due to COVID-19.

The initiative was born in response to industry request and to keep up with the category’s development, said the CNFIA, adding that beverage manufacturer Fujian Kangzhiwei Food Industry was leading the initiative.

The CNFIA also noted that currently, there is no national standard set for electrolyte beverage products overseas, except in the case of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

It stated that an electrolyte drink is “a drink formulated for the rapid replacement of fluid, carbohydrate and electrolytes during or after 60 minutes or more of sustained strenuous physical activity’.

Under the non-alcoholic beverages and brewed soft drinks categories, it also specified the composition and certain labelling provisions of these beverages, including electrolyte drinks.

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