The increased focus on post-workout nutrition has athletes looking for the optimal recovery fuel. Experts suggest there is a two-hour recovery window that represents the best time to refuel and rehydrate your body to keep it in tip-top shape and get back in the game. So, it’s no wonder that workout recovery beverages are experiencing spectacular growth.

The sports drink industry is a $3.3 billion category across all channels and presents a unique opportunity for milk processors and retailers. Refueling with chocolate milk provides an additional occasion for consumers to drink milk and drives incremental sales. On a regional level, many milk processors have seen double-digit volume growth. If these numbers aren’t enough to convince you, consider the compelling science supporting the benefits of chocolate milk as a post-exercise drink.

A growing body of evidence supports the benefits of chocolate milk after strenuous exercise; milk has the right mix of carbohydrates and protein to help athletes refuel. Research conducted at the University of Texas, Austin, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, compared the recovery benefits of drinking low-fat chocolate milk after strenuous exercise to a carbohydrate beverage with the same calories (similar to a typical sports drink) and calorie-free beverages. The studies revealed that drinking low-fat chocolate milk after a tough workout could give trained and amateur athletes a post-exercise training advantage.

More specifically, athletes in the studies who drank low-fat chocolate milk post-exercise improved training times, had better body composition (more muscle, less fat) and were in better shape than their peers who drank typical sports beverages with carbohydrates only.

Through our Refuel with Chocolate Milk Program, MilkPEP has been an advocate of the benefits of low-fat chocolate milk as a recovery drink. We wanted to cut through the marketing clutter from our competitors and put the message about the inherent benefits of chocolate milk front and center for consumers in our core target audience, athletes 18-34 years old. The Refuel with Chocolate Milk Tour visits the largest sporting events in select markets this year. Reaching more than 650,000 elite athletes, the 50-market truck tour gives MilkPEP a unique opportunity to extend awareness and educate athletes about the benefits of chocolate milk. It also allows us to connect with local trainers to establish a stable of credible and trusted local advocates whom athletes feel comfortable turning to for advice about their nutritional needs. The tour, which runs through October, has been a resounding success, allowing us to touch athletes from coast-to-coast.

In addition to the tour, MilkPEP implemented a series of tent events that allow processors to host Refuel activities at athletic venues in their local markets. These events give processors the chance to own the Refuel message, showcase their individual brands and engage consumers directly onsite through couponing, give-aways and sampling. More than 75 milk processors have signed up.

MilkPEP provides the following tips to milk processors:

Get branded. Take advantage of the new Refuel logo and other packaging opportunities available at

Use in-store sampling. Most chocolate milk sales are impulse purchases. Sampling events present an opportunity to drive traffic to the dairy aisle and increase sales.

Leverage supermarket RDs. Registered dietitians are uniquely positioned to tout the benefits of chocolate milk through in-store demos and monthly newsletters.

Get connected. Connect with athletes at local athletic events to help drive sales of your brand by promoting the latest science on the benefits of refueling with low-fat chocolate milk after strenuous exercise.

Leverage POS. Use our point-of-sale materials to create excitement in the dairy aisle. All MilkPEP POS materials are free to milk processors and easy to order online or by phone (call 800-945-MILK).

Go viral. Spread the Refuel with Chocolate Milk message among your fanbase on Facebook, Twitter or blogs. MilkPEP provides easy-to-use content for social media channels for processors online at

Milk is a catalyst for a shopping trip, and the dairy aisle is one of the most heavily trafficked areas in the store. When retailers can get consumers to make an incremental purchase (such as chocolate milk), consumers will consume that extra milk and it will not interrupt their next purchase cycle. That makes chocolate milk a huge opportunity for incremental sales.

Simple and effective, chocolate milk is delicious, affordable and more importantly, gets the job done, not only for athletes but for processors’ and retailers’ bottom lines.

Vivien P. Godfrey is chief executive officer of Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Washington, D.C.

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