We put PRIME up against some of SA’s favourite sports drinks to see if the new brand can rival powerhouse brands such as Powerade® and Energade®.
Sold at Checkers stores across South Africa, the Mzansi nation was shook by the release of the PRIME Hydration Drink range. With shelves running bare mere moments after PRIME was launched, the hype was seemingly real!
READ: Mass SA retailer to launch PRIME Hydration drink in stores from May
So, naturally, the Food24 team had to delve more deeply to see if the hydration drink range really lives up to the hype and the fancy price tag. We also compared the newly imported brand to our old favourite sports hydration drinks, Energade® and Powerade® – two staple brands easily available at just about any supermarket in South Africa.
Notes on Prime, Powerade® and Energade®
The PRIME Hydration range claims to be both refreshing and hydrating. Each PRIME drink is labelled as being packed with coconut water (which aids in hydration and is a great source of electrolytes), BCAAs (proteins found in food – muscles “burn” these amino acids for energy) and a host of other vitamins such as potassium and vitamins A6, B6, B12 and E. Each 500ml bottle costs R39.99 and only contains 20 calories per serving as they have been sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners.
Both Powerade® and Energade® have long been dominating the SA market when it comes to sports hydration drink options.
Powerade® claims to be a refreshing source of vitamins B3, B5 and B6, offering 160 calories per 500ml serving in their original range of Powerade® beverages. On average a bottle will cost R13.99.
Energade® is labelled as being “a popular source of quick carbohydrates and electrolytes favoured by athletes since 1993”. No vitamins are specifically listed on the label and on average the calories come in at around 95 calories per 500ml serving for one of their original flavour range beverages. On average a bottle will cost R11.99.
Tasters were asked to pay special attention to the flavour of each sample as well as rate each sample. Tasters also left comments on each sample and the tasting panel did not hold back!
Easily the biggest takeaway is that PRIME Hydration Drinks are not worth the hype – at least not from a cost and flavour perspective, especially when compared to Powerade® and Energade®.
While they are significantly lower in calories when compared to the original sports drinks from Powerade® or Energade®, the flavouring in the PRIME Hydration range leaves much to be desired.
It would also appear that the South African palate leans towards a more balanced hydration drink, favouring less sweet options, which did not play in PRIME’s favour as the consensus was that they were far too sweet! The naartjie-flavoured sports drinks were also the absolute winners.
Powerade® naartjie flavoured sports drink: 7.7/10
Scoring the highest in the taste test, with a close competitor nipping at its heels, the original naartjie-flavoured Powerade® was the crowd favourite.
The tasting panel all picked up on the familiar flavour, with many recalling it from their childhoods, although they couldn’t differentiate between the flavoured beverage from Energade® and Powerade®. The drink was also praised for not being overly sweet.
Tasters’ comments: “One of the Energade or Powerade naartjie ones. Not too sweet, very nice, definitely naartjie”, and “This taste reminds me of a juice I used to drink growing up. It’s lovely and perfectly sweetened for someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth”, and lastly, “Not bad, actually … one of the better ones in this test.”
Energade® naartjie flavoured drink: 7.5/10
Coming in a close second was the naartjie-flavoured Energade®. As with the naartjie-flavoured Powerade®, this sample was also favoured for its wholesome naartjie flavour and tasters liked that it was more balanced and not overly sweet, especially when compared to the other beverages in the tasting sample.
Tasters’ comments: “Tastes like naartjie for sure, not too sweet. Nice balance. Not sure if this is Energade or Powerade but definitely the naartjie-flavoured one”, and “Another nice one – subtle naartjie flavour and not too sweet”, and lastly, “Good old naartjie … the OG of flavours. Still the best!”
Powerade® Mountain Blast® sports drink and Energade® blueberry flavoured drink: 7/10
Tying for the third spot was Powerade® Mountain Blast® and Energade® blueberry flavoured drink. Tasters picked up blueberry flavours in both samples.
Overall, Powerade® Mountain Blast® sports drink was praised for its refreshing flavour. Tasters also enjoyed this sample because it wasn’t overly sweet, especially when compared to some of the other samples. Tasters left comments like: “A nice mix between refreshing and sweet with a more obvious blueberry flavour”, and “Again, less sweet than the others, which I liked”, and lastly, “Light blue Powerade for sure. Not too sweet, good flavour, love it!”
Energade® blueberry flavoured drink too was praised for its flavour, with one taster noting: “Blueberries fo’ sho!” and tasters also felt that the sample was less sweet when compared to some of the other samples. Tasters left comments like: “I’m a Powerade and Energade junkie, and I love this”, “I mean blueberry Energade is the best. Love it … pretty sure this one is blue Energade”, and lastly, “A road-tripping fave! Flavourful and hydrating without being too sweet”.
Energade® tropical flavoured drink: 5.8/10
While the tropical notes weren’t that evident on the tasters’ palates, this sample was praised for its refreshing quality and was generally well received.
There seemed to be much confusion around the flavour itself with some tasters guessing apple, while others picked lime, lemon, bubblegum, or pineapple.
Tasters’ comments: “Less sweet which I like, I would imagine this to be refreshing when exercising”, and “Nice and sweet but balanced tropical flavours come through”.
PRIME Hydration Drink – Lemon Lime flavour: 5.7/10
Coming in fifth spot was the lemon-lime PRIME Hydration Drink, which made this the highest-scoring among the PRIME Hydration range.
The majority of the tasting panel noted that the sample was just too sweet, a factor that could not be overlooked for the whole PRIME range. Overall, the comments were somewhat less favourable, but the sample did manage to divide the tasting panel.
Some tasters felt it tasted like medicine, noting: “This tastes like medicine. Way too sweet. Just not my fave at all”, while others enjoyed the sweet and sour taste, commenting: “I loved the sweet and sour taste. Beautiful balance of the flavours.”
There also seemed to be some confusion around the flavour of the drink itself. Most tasters picked lime or lemon, but some thought it was more similar to lemonade and some thought it tasted more like litchi. Others, meanwhile, simply had no clue what the flavour actually was, noting: “Just another energy hydration drink.”
Some other comments from the tasters: “Lemony but seriously sweet. More like a concentrate that you need to add water to”, and “Not too bad, might just toss a bit of gin into it! AND ICE!”, and lastly, “This is definitely a Prime. This one is good, sweeeeeet but good. Tastes like lemon and lime. I would probably pay 40 bucks for this one.”
Powerade® Jagged Ice® sports drink: 5.5/10
Even though the tasters picked this sample out as Powerade®, a brand we South Africans are quite accustomed to, the sample failed to wow the tasting panel.
One taster noted: “I know this one … my drink of choice when I’m road-tripping! What does it taste like? I have no idea. Sugar, I guess. But I’m here for the colour!”
From ice lolly to salty blueberry to “not sure”, the tasters couldn’t quite pick out the actual flavour they were tasting, a sure factor that hurt the scores for this sample.
Other comments tasters left: “Tastes familiar, Powerade for sure, but I would give this flavour a miss”, and “Not a fan”, and lastly, “Terrible! Flush it!”
PRIME Hydration Drink – Blue Raspberry flavour: 4/10
The overall consensus from the tasting panel was that this sample was far too sweet, and as for the actual flavour? Your guess is as good as ours!
A few tasters felt the flavour was like Jelly Babies, specifically either red Jelly Babies or litchi Jelly Babies. Some felt the flavour was nothing easily distinguishable, while others thought it might be more citrusy, noting: “Vaaaaaguely citrusy but teeth-meltingly sweet.”
One taster felt it reminded them of a good old jello shot, noting: “It’s too sweet. Reminds me of jello shots – so maybe it’ll taste better with vodka!”
Other comments left by tasters: “Again, won’t rush out to buy more”, and “This one just tastes like super sweet, no distinguishing flavour for me. Definitely a PRIME. Maybe lime? But flavour does not scream anything other than sweet”, and lastly, “Dude! This is soooo gross! It’s really sweet and weird!”
PRIME Hydration Drink – Ice Pop: 3/10
Tasters felt that this sample was cloyingly sweet, with quite an artificial taste to it. Overall, the sample did not win too many favours among the tasting panel.
There was less confusion around the flavour of this PRIME, though. The tasters picked up on cherries, with many interestingly noting that it reminded them of cherry cough syrup in particular.
Other comments tasters left: “Tastes like children’s cough syrup. I hated the taste and couldn’t finish it”, and “Way too sweet and artificial”, and lastly, “Cloying … sweet … on the awful side of weird.”
Energade® mixed berry flavoured drink: 2.7/10
The flavour of the sports drink was undeniably mixed berry, but overall the tasting panel was not the biggest fan of this sample, noting it was very much on the sweet side.
Tasters’ comments: “Another one that’s calling for some vodka! Way too sweet on its own and a bit medicinal”, and “Again, these are all way too sweet for me”, and lastly, “I did not like this one. Berry flavoured for sure but not a fan at all … don’t think it’s one of the Primes though, tastes like it is Energade.”
PRIME Hydration Drink – Tropical Punch flavour: 2.4/10
Most tasters thought it was extremely sweet, noting that it tastes like “pure sugar” and instead of tropical flavours coming through in this sample, tasters picked up more on marzipan and cough syrup notes, noting things like: “Another one from Prime I would say, tastes like marzipan?!” and “Cough syrup? Marzipan?”
Some other comments from tasters: “I really don’t like this one. It tastes kind of familiar – maybe of Jelly Tots? But mixed with sweet medicine, which is just gross”, and “Terrible. Too sweet. Too cloying. The colour of blood plasma … just no”, and lastly, “So sweet and so gross … Tastes like a sweet cough syrup with a marzipan aftertaste to it. Defs a Prime. Not a vibe.”
Prices correct at the time of publishing
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– All tasters tasted and scored all samples. Each individual taster’s preference impacts the score they give.
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