Vibrancy at Work: Staying Hydrated with SPINS’ Wellness Director

Chicago’s heat has peaked in the 90s several times this summer. A vibrant lifestyle requires proper hydration whether biking around town, strolling the river walk, or keeping optimal attention at work. So what do we know about health, hydration, and shopper preferences from SPINS data? We’ll take a look at these topics and offer a few of our favorite suggestions for summer sipping here.

Effects of dehydration

All of our organ systems rely on water, especially our brain. Even mild dehydration can derail your train of thought. One study found that attention, mathematical ability, and short-term memory decreased at 2% body water loss. The decline of each function worsened progressively as dehydration increased. Mild dehydration (1.5%) has also been shown to increase feelings of anxiety and tension in men. Results from another study showed an association between increased fluid intake and a positive mood in women.

There are a few theories which connect hydration to mental performance. One suggests that physiological stressors, such as dehydration, compete for attention. This consequently reduces mental capacity for complex tasks. Another theory suggests that the body’s hormonal response to dehydration may have a secondary effect on mental performance.  For example, cortisol, the stress hormone, increases with dehydration, and low cortisol has been associated with better short-term memory. Finally, dehydration is hypothetically thought to be destructive to neurons within the brain. However, this last theory has less support and may be more relevant among the elderly than in general populations.

The importance of proper hydration may lead you to wonder: how much water should you really drink for optimal health?

We’ve all heard the long-time recommendation of 8 cups of water a day. Believe it or not, there is actually very little evidence for this particular recommendation. In reality, it’s very difficult to accurately pin down how much water an individual requires. Individual body size is a major factor.  Additionally, activity level, environmental conditions, overall diet, and rate of sweating all influence how much an individual needs to drink.

A general fluid estimation from the Institute of Medicine recommends intake of 3.7 L (125 oz) for men and 2.7 L (91 oz) for women from all beverages and food. Another quick and easy estimation taking body size into account recommends consuming half of one’s body weight (in pounds) as fluid ounces from beverage and food. Keep in mind that fluid can be sourced from many beverages and food, not just from plain water alone. It is estimated that the typical American consumes about 80% of their fluid from beverages and 20% from food.

Sparkling or still?

Yes, any beverage can be used for hydration – even coffee and light beer! However, water reigns supreme when it comes to quenching thirst. Insights from SPINS data point to growing consumer demand for flavored forms of H2O. Together, FLAVORED SPARKLING WATER and FLAVORED WATER subcategories have seen a near 33% increase, with growth percentage in still flavored waters more than doubling that of sparkling alternatives.

The appeal of effervescent flavor remains a crowd-pleaser, though: the FLAVORED SPARKLING WATER subcategory maintains greater market share, with overall sales 2.4 times higher than those of the still FLAVORED WATER subcategory. The FLAVORED SPARKLING WATER subcategory is up 26% across channels, with the Natural (41%) and Specialty Gourmet (35%) Channels posting the highest growth. And if you’ve been on social media this summer, you’ve likely seen a few memes professing passionate allegiance to a certain brand in this subcategory. (If you missed it, read about LaCroix’s viral popularity here.)

Focus on flavor, concentrate on convenience

Other thirsty shoppers may prefer to mix in just the right amount of flavor for their tastes. Interestingly, the DRINK MIXES & CONCENTRATES category is down approximately 4% cross-channel. Despite this overall decline in sales, the LIQUID DRINK MIXES subcategory is experiencing divergent growth in the Natural (133%) and Specialty Gourmet (18%) Channels. Drink concentrates are a convenient and portable option for consumers to hydrate with a favorite flavor, requiring less preparation than DIY infusions of fresh or frozen fruit or herbs. At SPINS, we recently offered DIY infusions and flavor concentrate drops to our teams in the office. The fresh infusions were a big hit, but we noticed people used more of the prepared flavor drops in their day-to-day.

A few tasty tips to live vibrantly and stay hydrated

Plain water all day, every day can become a bit of a bore, but juice, soda, or other sugar-sweetened beverages can rack up unnecessary calories pretty quickly as you try to stay cool in the heat. I recommend lightly flavored waters or sparkling waters as a refreshing alternative. Not ready to give up your sweet tooth just yet? Here are a couple of RD-approved ideas to help you temper your sugar intake while revving up great flavor.

Lively Mule:

Similar to the classic cocktail favorite with less refined sugar and none of the alcohol

4 oz Ginger beer (stretch one bottle across several glasses to mix this drink up for a crowd)

12 oz Lime flavored sparkling water

3-4 Mint leaves

Small handful of frozen berries (raspberries are my personal favorite)

Muddle the berries and mint together in a glass to release their flavors. (The back of a spoon works!) In the same glass, mix a 1:3 ratio of ginger beer with sparkling water. As your palate and preferences evolve, work toward using less and less ginger beer to dial back the sugar. 


Citrus + Herb (a SPINS favorite):

A new take on lemon water


12 oz Sparkling or still water

2-3 Basil leaves

1 Orange slice

1 Lemon slice

Lightly massage the basil leaves to help release their flavor before adding them to a glass. Add in orange and lemon slices. (Sliced citrus provides more surface area for flavor release over time, but you may also squeeze a wedge of juice into your mix instead.) Top with the sparkling or still water of your choice, and enjoy!

Try these recipes or give them your own twist. Follow the 1:3 ratio of your favorite juice with your choice of water. Or substitute different fruits and herbs to make your own low-sugar, highly satisfying way to hydrate!

Data Source: SPINSscan Natural and Specialty Gourmet (proprietary), SPINSscan Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI). 52 weeks ending 5/15/2016. UPC coded items only. Growth dollars based on volume for the current period versus year ago and is based on currently coded items.