KANSAS CITY — Canadean, the London-based market research firm, recently forecast that the future of the energy beverage category lies in products with clean labels and that are sugar free. The trends watcher argues that while consumers are still investing in the category many are concerned about some of the ingredients used.

“Although the two biggest players in the energy drinks market have not yet incorporated taurine-free energy drinks in their product ranges, Red Bull’s sugar-free and zero calories variants and Monster Energy’s absolutely zero beverage attest to a trend towards healthier drinks,” said Thomas Delaney, an analyst with Canadean. “They are tell-tale signs of a diverging energy drinks market.”

There are a number of entrepreneurial companies attempting to establish a foothold in the natural, clean label energy drink category. Chasing Rabbits, San Rafael, Calif., markets and distributes a product that is manufactured from non-bioengineered ingredients and is low glycemic. Agua Enerviva is another company trying to break into the niche with its line of energy waters. The beverages are marketed as natural and use guarana as the source of energy.

Despite a spate of bad publicity the past few years due to consumer lawsuits and congressional inquiries into the safety of energy beverages, the category has remained resilient. Manufacturers such as Monster and Red Bull have strong positions in North America and have been expanding their positions in international markets.

Canadean, for example, noted that it had conducted a survey that showed in the United Kingdom 1 in 10 Britons consume energy drinks, with half of them doing so on a weekly basis. Twenty-four per cent of the respondents who consume energy drinks say they drink them “more than once a week”, while 26% say “weekly” consumption is the norm. The survey results are reflected by the overall U.K. sales numbers, as energy drink consumption has gone up from 375 million liters in 2010 to 500 million liters in 2013.

But Canadean also found consumers are concerned about the health effects of energy drinks, with 6 out of 10 energy drink consumers believing consumption of the products is bad for their health. More interesting, 72% of the consumers surveyed by Canadean who drink energy drinks expressed support for the restrictions on the sales of energy drinks to children.

 The data shows there is an untapped opportunity in the energy beverage category. The trends, most notably the demand for clean label products, are starting to have an impact on the category, and new players are developing products that are perceived as healthy but also deliver the functional benefit consumers demand.