Energy drink explosion hits food products

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 27th August 2008

Anyone who owns or has recently visited a convenience store or supermarket is aware that energy drinks are hot. Leading market research firm Mintel reports that the retail market for energy drinks is now valued at $4.8 billion, a growth rate of over 400% from 2003, and they now believe the buzz for energy drinks is being transferred to food manufacturers.

Drinking for energy

The number of “energy drinkers” is still growing briskly, according to Mintel. In 2003, only 9% of adult respondents to Mintel’s survey said they drank energy drinks. In 2008, 15% did. Teens have embraced energy drinks even faster. Mintel’s latest survey of teenagers revealed 35% regularly consume energy drinks, up from 19% in 2003.

Such growth has seen the category become the fastest growing sector of the beverage industry over the past five years.

“Energy drinks have quickly become a daily beverage choice,” notes Krista Faron, senior new product analyst at Mintel. “As more Americans use energy drinks, we’ve seen a rise in products being launched with innovative new ingredients, claims and consumer targets.”

Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) tracked just 80 new US energy drink launches in 2003. But in 2007, the firm found 187 and already in 2008, Mintel GNPD has discovered more than 270 new energy drinks launched in the US.

Eating for energy

As energy drinks become more commonplace, Mintel sees “energy” expanding beyond the aluminum can. “Energy bars are familiar to many Americans,” explains Ms Faron, “but other energized foods, such as candy, chips, milk and cereal, are definitely not. We expect the concept of ‘energy’ both physical and mental to greatly influence food product development.”

Ms Faron has witnessed “energy” ingredients moving from drinks into food in recent times. Ginseng, guarana and taurine popularised by energy drinks now appear in snacks like NRG Phoenix Fury chips with taurine or Full Charge sunflower seeds with ginseng and guarana. Caffeine is also emerging in foods from energy bars to cereals, such as Morning Spark’s caffeine-fortified instant oatmeal.

Superfoods, recognised for high antioxidant content, are now added to foods for mental and physical performance benefits. The Think Green Superfood Energy Bar, for example, includes blueberries and noni powder.

“Energy is poised to take food in a new direction, giving consumers who need a boost many different ways to get it,” Ms Faron advised. “From natural energizers like omega-3s or antioxidants to foods that are fortified with energizing ingredients, we are seeing ‘energy’ to emerge as a core benefit in new food products.”

The most likely prospects for energy food expansion would appear to be in “sport performance” products and breakfast meals. The concept of breakfast providing energy for the rest of the day is one that many consumers attest to, and it would be surprising if more companies don’t embark on the testing of cereals with “energy” ingredients.