The Goodness of Dairy

As members of the dairy community, we know that milk has a lot of goodness. With 13 essential nutrients, it is ultra-hydrating, has high-quality protein and is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D to support bone health.

It took a creative mom looking for a better sports drink solution for her son during his sports games to realize how the goodness of milk could create a healthy, natural hydrator that works better than the leading sports drinks for her kid and other athletes in the world. Milk’s goodness inspired GoodSport’s Founder to create a clear, refreshing sports drink by extracting the electrolytes and carbohydrates from milk, simultaneously creating a new format to consume dairy and disrupting the sports drink aisle as we know it today.

A born and raised Michigander with college experience at both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, Michelle McBride, proud mom and founder and CEO of GoodSport Nutrition is the first to admit, “I have no background in dairy. I’m an attorney. I was a nonprofit executive. And I came up with this idea of GoodSport because I didn’t want my kids drinking sport drinks filled with artificial ingredients.”

“My husband and I had read about athletes who drink chocolate milk to recover after working out, so we started to bring our son that as a healthier alternative for after sports,” McBride said. The problem remained though that milk wasn’t his beverage of choice before and during a sport activity.

“We tried all the natural sports drink options, and my son didn’t like the taste, and then I came to learn that they don’t provide any level of hydration beyond plain water anyway,” McBride explained. “There was something inside of me that said, ‘I wonder if you could make a natural sports drink from milk that would work better.’”

That’s how the idea of GoodSport was born. “You have the traditional sports drinks that are made with artificial ingredients and too much sugar. And you’ve got the natural sports drinks, but they don’t hydrate any better than water,” McBride said. “GoodSport fills the void in the space of by being a sport drink made with only natural ingredients that’s backed by peer-reviewed published studies to hydrate not only better than water, but better than traditional sport drinks as well.”

After spending a year mulling over the ground-breaking idea of a dairy-based sports drink, McBride finally pursued it. She did the research and turned to experts to make the idea into a reality.

“After some research, I learned that milk is not only packed with electrolytes, but it is significantly more hydrating than water and traditional sports drinks as well,” McBride said. “I figured there has to be a way to extract milk’s hydrating components to create a better sports drink, but I knew I needed some experts to help me with it.”

McBride turned to Dr. Bob Murray, the current GoodSport Chief Science Officer and the previous founder and director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. “Dr. Bob is an internationally renowned expert on sports hydration. He has worked with the biggest athletes and teams in the world and is an extraordinarily well-published scientist.”

Initially, a milky formula was created. After testing it with consumers, McBride and Murray found that while the idea was appealing, athletes wanted something that had the mouthfeel and tasted more like a traditional sports drink. This revelation led them to working with the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin.

“Working with the Center for Dairy Research, I was taught that you could use ultrafiltration to remove the protein and fat from milk (the milky part) and extract its electrolytes, carbohydrates, and B vitamins in a clear liquid to make a sports drink,” McBride said. “I also learned that we didn’t necessarily have to go out and buy tankers full of milk and ultrafilter it myself and waste the protein that I didn’t need for my sports drink because dairy processors, like Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA), ultrafilter milk to make products like protein powders, and have no use for the nutritious part of the milk that we would need to make the sports drink.”

As one of their early suppliers of GoodSport’s milk permeate, the main ingredient in the product, MMPA was an obvious partner when it came to moving the needle for GoodSport. The partnership that began as supplying their permeate has now turned to MMPA taking brand equity stake in the company.

“MMPA’s partnership means the world to us because it is a vote of confidence from the dairy industry and from the farmers themselves. Together, we’re really going to help make every drop of milk count,” McBride said. “It’s such a fantastic strategic alliance because MMPA has its own objectives and priorities in terms of innovation and product diversification to help keep dairy relevant for consumers going forward, and those same initiatives are relevant to GoodSport.”

GoodSport’s four flagship sports drink flavors are Lemon Lime, Fruit Punch, Wild Berry and Citrus, with Fruit Punch and Wild Berry as their two most popular flavors. In January, GoodSport launched an additional two flavors: Strawberry Lemonade and Blue Raspberry.

The Center for Dairy Research and MMPA weren’t the only relationships that McBride made in the dairy industry. Since there wasn’t a database of information on the nutrient content of permeate, McBride relied on Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), part of the national dairy checkoff program, to conduct research and strengthen the case for GoodSport being a solution to the problems she faced as a mom.

“DMI really helped support us with insights, information and research.,” McBride said. “We knew we had the components of a really well formulated sports drink, but we hadn’t had any type of study done that proved GoodSport hydrates better than the traditional sports drinks, so that’s where we started.”

Their research found that the goodness of dairy did make GoodSport better. The sports drink is a natural hydration option with 3X the electrolytes and 33% less sugar than traditional sports drink. The research also found that GoodSport hydrates better than water and traditional sports drinks and improves exercise performance.

“There are sports drinks that come and go from retail shelves all the time with little difference except for the names. When you look at consumer research and what consumers are looking for when they’re making purchases in the beverage aisle, the top three purchase indicators are whether the product is natural, whether it has proven efficacy, and whether it is sustainable,” McBride said.

And how does GoodSport stack up? “We have an all-natural product that’s proven to hydrate significantly better than water and traditional sports drinks and is upcycled certified because we’re upcycling a component of milk that otherwise would not get used,” Michelle said. Then she humbly added, “It’s a pretty good product-market fit.”

Really, it’s a nearly perfect product-market fit, and exactly what McBride was looking for when she set out to make a sports drink that was “good for you, good for sport and good for the planet.”

As for what’s next, GoodSport’s partnership with MMPA includes utilizing a recently awarded grant from the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance to work on a new format of GoodSport. The partnership and funds are guaranteed to continue innovating the future of dairy because McBride recognizes that “honest to goodness, there’s a lot of good here.”

This article was originally published in the January/February 2024 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »