KANSAS CITY — Sales in the energy drink category continue to flow at a strong pace, but certain ingredients might allow such products to take a different marketing stream, one that provides a distinctive advantage over competitors. Caffeine from natural sources, tropical flavors and ingredients sourced sustainably all may provide such distinction.
The U.S. retail market for energy and sports drinks reached sales of $25 billion in 2016 after rising at an annual rate of 7% over the past five years, according to Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.
|David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts|
“Many consumers perceive sports drinks as healthier than sodas and other carbonated beverages due to their association with sports and physical activity in general,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “Although originally designed for athletes, these products soon garnered mainstream sales as anytime drinks, particularly among teen and young adult males. The novel flavor profile of energy and sports drinks also appealed to consumers seeking a change from sodas.”
Infiniti Research, London, predicts the global energy drinks market will have a compound annual growth rate of 11% through 2019. The market will see more energy drinks with natural ingredients and the removal of potentially harmful additives, including alcohol, according to Infiniti Research.
FutureCeuticals, Momence, Ill., offers organic Coffeeberry Energy brand whole coffee fruit caffeine made from Arabica whole coffee cherries.
“We also don’t use harsh chemical solvents only to be found in a lab,” said Andrew Wheeler, director of marketing for FutureCeuticals. “The only solvent used in our processing of Coffeeberry Energy is water. We think of natural as obviously distinguishing our ingredient from the synthetic, man-made caffeine chemicals that are out there, but it also distinguishes us from caffeine sources that use laboratory solvents other than plain old water in the extraction process.”
The ingredient is soluble, not bitter and colorless, he said.
“We think our product is unique in the marketplace because it is not only caffeine,” he said. “It contains other important components of the coffee fruit, like coffee fruit polyphenols, fiber and protein. It is harder to do, costs more to make and takes more attention to detail, but we believe that these aspects distinguish our ingredient from the other one-note caffeine ingredients that are out there.”
HiBall Energy, San Francisco, links its products to natural benefits, too. The energy drinks contain a blend of guarana, ginseng and caffeine in addition to vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12. The bevererages are free from synthetic, artificial ingredients, sweeteners or colors.
Matahi Energy Juice comes with a sustainable sourcing benefit. The drink contains water, organic baobab fruit pulp and organic guarana as a source of caffeine.
Matahi, Montpellier, France, works with a cooperative at Natitingou, Benin. The fruit contains seeds under its hard shell that are covered in white pulp. Matahi uses the pulp in its drinks. The pulp contains vitamin C, calcium, potassium, fiber and antioxidants.
Alex Beckett, a global food and drink analyst for Mintel, addressed baobab’s potential in energy drinks in a March 15 blog post. He said in 2016 juice accounted for 63% of drinks with baobab. Sports and energy drinks accounted for 13%, and other beverages, like meal replacement shakes and powdered smoothie shakes, accounted for 23%.
“The (energy drink) category continues to be saddled with a negative health image reflected by the third of U.S. adults who worry about the safety of regular energy drinks (Mintel Energy Drinks, U.S. 2016),” Mr. Beckett said in his blog post. “These ongoing consumer concerns are compelling brands to look to better-for-you additions to balance the caffeine content, and at a time when superfoods are coming in and out of fashion in the mainstream press, a lack of familiarity with a plant ingredient can actually elevate its health appeal rather than limit it.
“Baobab, with its African heritage and nutritional content, not to mention ethical appeal, can provide a health halo with a difference to energy drink brands.”
Monster Beverage Corp., Corona, Calif., this year plans to launch Mango Loca, a new flavor in the Monster Energy juice portfolio, said Rodney C. Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer. The X-Presso Monster Energy drink in two flavors may launch later in the year.
Bars and bagels are entering the energy category, too.
Einstein Bros. Bagels, Lakewood, Colo., launched the Espresso Buzz Bagel with 32 mg of caffeine and 13 grams of protein. Java Me Up Coffee Bars contain an espresso blend from No. Six Depot roastery and cafe in West Stockbridge, Mass. Each bar contains 35 mg of caffeine.