With the overall Soft Drinks category in modest growth at +6.9%, vs YA, the Sports & Energy category has outstripped this at a faster pace of +15.9% YTD (Nielsen).

Today Sports & Energy is worth £1.6bn, with growth totalling over £220.4m vs 2020 (Nielsen).

This growth has been fuelled by the increasing demand for Functional Energy. These drinks have added over £188m vs 2020 and have approached the billion-pound segment, today worth over £1.1bn annually (Nielsen).

The consistent performance of Functional in the category has ensured that Sports & Energy has remained in growth, with Functional Energy the fastest growing segment in Soft Drinks at +20.2% YTD (Nielsen).

Overall, Red Bull is growing even faster than Total Soft Drinks within the category with +20.1% in value (Nielsen), performing well across every channel.

With the heightened importance placed on the health agenda, consumers are swaying more towards healthier options. Energy drinks appeal to all groups of people – they all have one thing in common, the fact that they are looking for a functional drink to provide them with energy. However, different energy drink consumers may have different product preferences. It is therefore vital that outlets stock low and sugar free options in order to satisfy different consumer needs.

Sugarfree variants are growing penetration by 61.1% (Kantar), displaying growing demand for low-calorie options. In the latest six months, Red Bull sold 21.4% more sugar free volume through multipacks (Nielsen) – with these variants also growing penetration by 20.4% (Kantar). Ensure each SKU has a Sugarfree alternative easily available to consumers who are increasingly choosing these.

As 43% of flavoured sales come from total Sports and Energy, the Editions range has grown +122.2% in value over the last year (Nielsen), with shoppers buying more flavours as a take home purchase than ever before. Due to a major increase in consumer demand and high trade success throughout the summer in markets worldwide, the Cactus Fruit edition will become a permanent fixture within the portfolio known as the Green Edition.

Red Bull Energy Drink 250ml is the brand’s most familiar and best-selling SKU, and is also the single most valuable soft drink in the UK. Red Bull Energy Drink 250ml is worth over £150m to Sports & Energy and the number one single serve soft drink in the UK (Nielsen). With the second largest absolute gain on any brand, Red Bull has grown by £79.9m (Nielsen) due to an increase in penetration. Through a combination of shoppers held, shoppers won, and new shoppers within the Sports & Energy category, Red Bull has gained 97% more shoppers through In Home channels over the last year and 92% more shoppers through Out of Home channels (Kantar).

“Energy is a fast-growing part of the soft drinks market, delivering the highest profit per litre, with over 1 in 3 soft drinks sold in convenience stores being an Energy drink,” says Adrian Troy, Barr Soft Drinks’ Marketing Director. “Flavour remains really important to energy drinkers, they are looking for more than functionality, they want a great tasting product. Consumers are increasingly opting for flavoured variants when choosing an energy drink, with flavoured energy now accounting for 53% of the mainstream energy market and growing faster than non-fruit energy.”

People’s needs have always driven the energy category with four major needs states driving Big Can consumption. Peak Performers are active, sporty consumers using Big Can Energy to fuel performance; Work Fuellers are pre-family with demanding jobs who want energy to focus on the task at hand; Mood Enhancers are busy families juggling childcare, lifestyle and work commitments, and then we have Pleasure Seekers who are the young adults socially drinking Big Can Energy with their peers.

“The category has to be exciting and varied to keep these shoppers engaged,” Troy explains.

Rubicon RAW ticks all their boxes and has performed exceptionally well since launch. The No. 1 reason consumers like Rubicon RAW is that it’s made with 20% real fruit juice, which together with caffeine from green coffee beans and B-vitamins provides a big energy hit that is full of flavour.

“Not only is the brand appealing to existing shoppers who are looking for great taste or something that meets their needs better as they mature, but we are also bringing in new shoppers who have that energy need, but just haven’t yet found the brand that’s right for them,” adds Troy. “The darker colours, overtly masculine and loud presentation of some brands in the market is not for everyone.”

Launched in February, Rubicon RAW from Barr Soft Drinks quickly made an impact on the UK’s Energy Drink market selling 7 million cans in the first 7 months.

The levy free 500ml Rubicon RAW range is available in plain pack and £1.29 PMP plus a new 4x500ml multipack.

IRN-BRU Energy from the UK’s No. 1 Scottish Grocery Brand (Kantar) combines the flavour of IRN-BRU’s top secret essence with the taurine, caffeine, B vitamins and taste of an energy drink and is available in sugar and no sugar.

IRN-BRU Energy has sold over 7.5 million cans since it was launched in July 2019 with over 80% of those who have tried it saying they will purchase again.

“We recommend wholesalers offer a wide range of flavours, pack formats and brand offerings to meet the demand for the category, helping retailers to maximise sales and drive incremental basket spend in store,” comments Adrian Hipkiss, Marketing and International Business Director at Boost Drinks.

“Customers are becoming more health conscious than ever before, with Gen Z in particular increasingly looking for healthier, no and low sugar options,” adds Hipkiss. “As well as offering specific sugar-free variants as part of our stimulation portfolio, such as our Boost Original Sugar-Free Energy, we have worked to reduce the overall sugar content of our entire stimulation range to provide lower sugar options that don’t compromise on the great taste for which Boost is well-known.”

Flavours now make up 38% of the energy stimulation market and are in 27% growth YoY (IRI), and with over a third of shoppers revealing they base their purchase decision on flavours alone, flavours have been fundamental to the NPD strategy at Boost.

In April, Boost expanded its energy flavours portfolio by launching a brand-new Mango 250ml Energy SKU. Mango is one of the fastest-growing flavours in the energy drink category, growing at +22% YoY in volume sales (IRI).

Flavours are a significant trend within the energy stimulation market, which is driving market growth. Flavours now contribute a huge 38% of energy stimulation sales and 39% of stimulation shoppers make their purchase based on flavours alone (Cousins Davis).

“Therefore, we highly suggest that both wholesalers and retailers stock a diverse range of energy flavours to help appeal to a wide range of tastes,” says Hipkiss. “Boost Drinks’ seven-flavour Energy stimulation range and continuous new product development strategy creates both retailer and shopper excitement, with our latest Mango flavour being one of the fastest growing flavours in the entire energy drink category, a flavour that’s up +22% YoY in volume sales.”

In addition, the ready-to-drink (RTD) Iced Coffee market is growing at +28% volume and +28% value YOY, and is currently worth £30m (IRI).

“With 81% of 18- to 34-year-olds saying they have bought Iced Coffee before, coupled with the impressive growth trajectory of the RTD Iced Coffee sector, we strongly recommend allocating a good amount of space to this growing sub-category to capitalise on the growth opportunity,” Hipkiss continues. “It is a great product to entice new shoppers to the fixture and help retailers drive incremental basket spend in store.”

“The energy drinks category is going from strength-to-strength, making it an important area for wholesalers to focus on,” comments Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP). “Giving consumers a much-needed energy boost is what the ‘Get Me Through The Day’ driver in our Taste Tomorrow soft drinks category vision is about – and it represents a big growth opportunity for wholesalers.”

Monster is up a massive 38.3% year to date (Nielsen), helping retailers to tap into this growing category. In addition to a strong core range, the Monster Juiced and Monster Ultra ranges are both growing at a rate of 40% (Nielsen), highlighting the demand for great tasting products and zero sugar options.

CCEP expanded its Reign Total Body Fuel range in July with the launch of two refreshing new variants – Peach Fizz and Orange Dreamsicle.

Health is now an even bigger motivator for consumers to improve their diet in the wake of COVID-19; 89% of shoppers are trying to improve their diet, with 29% specifically focussed on sugar reduction (IGD). “It’s important to help shoppers make the right health decisions for them, by offering low- or no-sugar options,” says Burgess. “It can also help wholesalers to grow sales, with the low- and no-sugar soft drinks category increasing its volume share of the overall soft drinks market in each of the past five years.”

The energy segment continues to benefit from the healthier lifestyles trend, with shoppers increasingly seeking food and drink with functional ingredients to help achieve maximum results, during sports or when working out. CCEP’s Reign Total Body Fuel range is number one in performance energy. The Monster Ultra range is the number one no sugar energy drinks brand in GB and is in 40% growth (Nielsen).

Matt Gouldsmith, Channel Director, Wholesale, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, comments: “The trends that were emerging before Covid-19, such as a focus on health and wellbeing and a rise in sugar-free drink sales are set to continue, as are those we saw develop during the crisis such as increased in-home consumption.

“One-in-four shoppers are consuming more soft drinks, and £143M has been added to the category through increased multipack sales during lockdown, so it is crucial that wholesalers understand these trends and cater for these changing habits to continue to see category growth.”

Suntory have developed a strategy that breaks down the soft drink category into four simple consumer need states: Enjoyable Refreshment, Uplift & Energise, Special Moments and Positive Choices. Each of these is based on insights and trends that highlight the headroom for growth and these will continue to dictate the market in the year ahead. To increase relevance and expand consumption occasions requires the right pack, in the right place, for the right occasion.

With 75% of people are concerned about their levels of tiredness and stress, Suntory has launched Lucozade Alert, a new stimulation drink range.

Suntory has introduced new flavours across the Lucozade Sport and Energy ranges over the past year.

“New flavours are crucial for retailers looking to drive excitement and incremental shoppers to the category, with one in four flavour shoppers being entirely new to the energy category,” adds Gouldsmith.

The brand’s most recent launch, Lucozade Alert, has two great flavour choices – Tropical Burst and Cherry Blast.

Last year Suntory also introduced Lucozade Zero Tropical while Lucozade Energy Raspberry Ripple joined the Lucozade Energy range, following on from successful launches including Citrus Chill and Watermelon & Strawberry Cooler.

Thai energy drink brand Carabao has announced plans to give its much-loved Mandarin Orange flavour a revamp and replace it with Carabao Orange Blast. This latest offering from the brand has an improved taste as well as a new can design that is befitting of this new zesty, low-calorie drink.

Consumer research conducted by YouGov found that energy drink drinkers were 50% more likely to buy a product called Orange Blast versus the previous Mandarin Orange product, so Carabao has also taken the opportunity to rename the flavour.

Speaking on the relaunch, David Butcher, Managing Director of Carabao UK&I, said: “When Mandarin Orange launched in 2018 it quickly became one of Carabao’s firm favourites among consumers. Now, we’re excited to replace it with even tastier orange drink that we know energy drink consumers will love.

“It’s been an exciting year for the brand as Carabao has continued to go from strength to strength in 2021, becoming one of the UK’s fastest growing energy drinks. Not only that but we’ve enhanced our commitment to football sponsorship by extending partnerships all over the UK. Now, with our new and improved Orange Blast flavour, we cannot wait to keep building our brand in 2022.”

The launch of Carabao Orange Blast will be supported by a Facebook advertising campaign and a series of activations targeting football fans linked to the brand’s sponsorship of the Carabao Cup as well as Hibernian FC and Hearts FC.


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