Athletic recovery drink features sunflower-oil stabilized omega-3

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock
Developed by Penn State professor Pete Bordi and former Steelers fullback Franco Harris, Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink is poised to exit the locker rooms and enter mainstream markets.

It’s taken Dr. Bordi 14 years to develop the drink together with Harris, a Penn State alum, aimed to speed up muscle recovery after workouts and prevent soft tissue injuries among athletes. It was sold on campus last year​ and tested on student athletes. Today, the team is prepping to put the product on the mainstream market sometime this year.

Adding omega-3 was one of their strategies to appeal to mass market. “We’ve always been testing different ingredients to make the product better. This current drink [without omega-3] has been on campus,”​ Dr. Bordi said at a press conference during Expo West 2016. “So with all the trends out there, we thought [omega-3s] were the most logical move to make the product go to market.”

Taking out the cream, putting in the fish oil

The omega-3 ingredient used is Cargill’s IngreVita​, launched two years ago at the IFT show in New Orleans. “It’s an EPA/DHA fish oil stabilized with high-oleic canola oil,”​ Kristine Sanschagrin, marketing manager at Cargill, said at the press conference. 

Bordi et Franco
Former NFL athlete Franco Harris, left, and Dr. Pete Bordi of Pennsylvania State University introducing their beverage at Expo West 2016 in Anaheim at the Cargill booth.

“But last year we created a new extension using high oleic sunflower oil to offer a non-GM alternative,”​ she added.

According to Sanschagrin, the ingredient was developed to be easily added to any formulation without the need of encapsulating or emulsifying. Dr. Bordi said incorporating IngreVita was a quick and simple formulation change. As a fat replacement, Bordi just “pulled out some of the heavy cream, and then put in the fish oil in there.”

Without the technology, Dr. Bordi added, the product would have been impossible. Trials to add omega-3 in the past rendered a fishy-smelling drink that separates from the dairy. But the team was adamant in adding the ingredient to the beverage.

“From my personal experience, I’ve been taking fish oil for the last 16 years, and I started when I turned 50 in the year 2000, I thought uh-oh Franco, as football players we experience a lot of problems with our body, and I just made some changes, one of them was I’m going to take fish oil,”​ Harris said. He said it made him feel better, and that he believes in the ingredient’s recovery benefits.

Aiming at the active lifestyle

Old Packaging Dr. Pete's
The old packaging of Dr. Pete's Recovery Drink. Photo: Kevin Sliman/PSU.edu

Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink launch rides on a wave of an active-lifestyle, health-conscious frenzy washing over the nation. “Taking this product to market was fuelled by my love of sports, fitness and nutrition, and my love of food,”​ Harris chuckled.

“Sports is a big business, and no doubt drinks beyond water have become an important part of nutrition in sports,” ​he added. “And I’m excited to be part of this growing market for recovery drinks.”

Another demand that Harris and Dr. Bordi wanted to cater to was the demand for fresh and natural products. An earlier formula involved ultra-high-temperature (UHT) processing, but Dr. Bordi said: “When we started doing UHT, we realized that we couldn’t make changes in the formulation as quickly as we needed to, so we opted for a fresh product which is on trend today.”

This is done by working with dairy farms throughout the nation, both small and large ones, to deliver the beverage with a shelf-life of 17 days to different localities. As of now, the plan is to launch three basic flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

“So we were able to keep it natural. And using the sunflower oil and omegas in it made it a fresher product for the general public,” ​Dr. Bordi said.

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1 comment

Lactose Intolerant

Posted by Forrest Coley,

Very fond memories and lasting impressions from my school days with Dr. Bordi. Will there ever be a non-dairy offering? At 53, I'm in probably the best shape of my life, but I've been bitten by the lactose intolerant bug (very common amongst people of color). . .a non dairy formula would be greatly appreciated!

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