There has been a change in focus in the energy market since the arrival of the sugar drinks levy. Priyanka Jethwa showcases an industry catering for customers’ health concerns

What are the biggest trends in the low-sugar energy drinks category? 

With increasing importance placed on the health agenda over the past year, emphasised by the introduction of the sugar levy in April, a growing number of shoppers are gravitating toward sugar-free options in the energy drinks category. Therefore, according to Mark Bell, strategy and planning manager at Red Bull, retailers must invest in diet energy drinks, which represent 11% of the total sports and energy drinks category. “With over half of shoppers walking away from a chiller if there is no low-sugar option, investing in a selection of low-sugar drinks will encourage more 18-34-year-olds, who want to cut down on sugar without giving up on energy, to make a purchase,” he says. Adrian Troy, marketing director at Barr Soft Drinks, adds that despite sugar being an important component when it comes to delivering energy, low-calorie energy drinks have increased in sales by nearly 30% compared to last year, with the company’s Rockstar Revolt variant tapping into this burgeoning trend. “Rockstar Revolt has launched with two 500ml varieties, Killer Citrus and Killer Cooler. Both are zero-sugar energy drinks that still give consumers an energy boost, despite being sugar-free,” he says. 

What are the biggest trends in the functional energy drinks category?

Energy drinks are currently driving the growth in the soft drinks category, 54% ahead of cola sales, and within this, a demand for caffeine-free and sugar-free drinks is bringing in new shoppers and incremental sales. “People are increasingly worried about the long-term health impact of their choice of drinks, with six out of 10 shoppers believing energy drinks are bad for their health,” says Trystan Farnworth, commercial director for convenience and impulse at Britvic. Offering a range of functional energy options, such as Purdey’s, appeals to health-conscious consumers looking for an energy boost from vitamins, as opposed to added sugar or taurine, he adds. Nutritious breakfast drinks that provide energy are also growing, at 20% year on year, and according to Gavin Loftus, head of brand at Weetabix Drinks, retailers should stock breakfast drinks in both the chilled and ambient aisles to make the most out of this opportunity. “Weetabix drinks offer a bottled breakfast that contains all the energy, protein and fibre of a typical Weetabix cereal with milk in resealable 250ml bottles. We’ve recently refreshed the packaging and introducing traffic light labelling on-pack to make it easier for shoppers to make a quick, informed choice,” he says. 

People want energy, but they are equally interested in taste

What are the biggest trends in the flavoured energy drinks category?

Offering shoppers a variety of flavours is important to make sure you are differentiating your range from other stores that offer the same standard energy drink flavours. Mark Young, managing director at Intercarabao UK, says “By providing new and unusual flavours, retailers can maintain the interest of their customers, and divert conversation to new energy drinks which are below the sugar content threshold.” To tap into this trend, Carabao has introduced Carabao Mandarin Orange, which is the first product in the range made to taste like a soft drink, but is still classed as an energy drink, suited to people who don’t enjoy the taste of regular energy drinks. Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners, says the company’s Monster Energy Ultra range, which includes four fruit flavours, grew by almost 14% last year, demonstrating the demand for flavoured options in the energy category. “In February this year, we launched a fifth variant to the Ultra family, Monster Energy Ultra Violet, which is a citrus-grape flavour, tapping into the surge in popularity for innovative flavours in the energy category.”