This week Asda hiked the price of its Prime Hydration soft drinks by an inflation-busting 25%, from £2 to £2.50. But you can hardly blame them. After signing an exclusive UK distribution deal with the US-based founders, it’s seen bottles selling for extraordinary sums on the black market. At one point, a 500ml bottle was being advertised on eBay for £50k, but even today, you can buy a single bottle on Amazon for £25.99. And, no, it’s not available for Amazon Prime delivery, funnily enough.
On Prime’s UK website, every single flavour is currently marked as out of stock. And for Asda it’s proving an incredible footfall driver. Queues have been forming outside Asda to shoppers desperate for a taste of the sports drink. To stop sellers and local shops from re-selling, it’s imposed a three-bottle limit.
So what the hell is going on here? It’s clear we have a sales phenomenon on our hands. And one in which social media is playing a vital role. It was founded by two YouTube ‘influencers’: KSI, a rapper who is also CEO of a boxing business; and Logan Paul. Their first partnership was actually in the boxing ring, but if that well-choreographed slug fest garnered lots of likes, Prime Hydration looks like it could convert that into hard-earned cash. And lots of it.
On the surface, there is little to mark the US brand out from others of its ilk. It has all the hallmarks of a standard sports drink: bright packaging coupled with ingredients such as electrolytes, vitamin B12 and “fruit and vegetable juice for color”. (Those luminous hues are shown in full glory by one meticulous reviewer, who pours six variants into glasses for a taste test.) Think Vitamin Water for a Gen Z audience.
To its credit, it does have a high coconut water content. But that’s hardly a USP.
Prime Hydration launched in the US in January and it’s struggled to meet demand ever since. In July, it started shipping to Asda stores, and the hype has followed it over here, further fuelled by social media. In fact you might say it was pump-primed by its founders in the run-up to the UK launch. In an Instagram post in May that has racked up over 500,000 likes, Paul debuted a series of outfits that matched the colours of its Prime flavours, from Grape to the more mysteriously named Meta Moon. Another post shows Paul and KSI celebrating its title as the official sports drink of Arsenal – a feat that generated 1.1 million likes.
The publicity does not seem to have died down. TikTok posts have shown Prime-obsessed shoppers fruitlessly searching Asda stores for bottles, using hashtags such as #primehydration and #primedrinkuk. The latter has over nine million views.
@primecheckeruk People are going crazy over this drink #primehydration #primehydrationuk #prime #asda #asdaprime #ksi #uk ♬ Tourner Dans Le Vide - Indila
With demand so obviously outstripping supply, many believe its social media savvy founders have deliberately restricted supply to create a buzz. That’s something KSI strenously denied in a recent episode of The Fellas podcast, insisting: “We’re supplying loads!” Even if the founders were to try such a trick, one doubts Asda would be too pleased by the lack of stock (although the limited availability certainly hasn’t done the supermarket any harm).
The hype may be mystifying to anyone outside its core audience of its founders. Most subscribers seem to be well under the age of 25, or even 16 (although mercifully, given the drinks don’t contain energy ingredients like taurine or caffeine, they are relatively kid-friendly).
It would be easy to dismiss this as a playground fad that will one day go the same way as Pogs and Tamagotchi. The hype may well die down in a few months. But even if its success is short-lived, it’s a shining example of how social media can build brands at an incredible speed. Prime may not be the sharpest, slickest or most innovative NPD to come on to the market, but it has quickly established itself as a desired, highly prized product.
So as easy as it is to mock the founders (as some do), who would bet against a soft drinks giant knocking on their door some time soon?