Energy drinks on unhealthy path?

Posted by Isobel Drake on 1st September 2009

Amid the constant publicity about the potential danger of energy drink ingredients, Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that the latest energy drink launches aren’t getting any healthier. Despite this, the popular beverage market continues to grow – with sales increasing over 240% from 2004 to 2009.

In the same timeframe, there has been a flood of new energy drinks to the market with new product launches up by over 110%.

Analyzing the ingredients in energy drinks launched between 2004 and 2008, Mintel GNPD found caffeine in nearly all energy drinks produced. Meanwhile, taurine, the other popular, yet controversial energy-boosting ingredient, was found in more than one in four (27%) energy drinks in 2004, but has slightly reduced to one in five (21%) in 2008.

“There is a significant market right now for drinks offering a boost of energy,” Lynn Dornblaser, Mintel global new products expert, noted. “Although consumers say they try to eat and drink better, it appears that energy drinks is not a category in which that happens, as they continue to choose options that contain sugar, caffeine and taurine, all of which can have negative effects if consumed in excess.”

Mintel found that suppliers are producing some new energy drinks that boast more health-focused claims, but they are in the minority. Energy drinks showing a ‘low, no or reduced’ calorie claim have increased from 6% to 11% between 2004 and 2008. Within the same timeframe, energy drinks featuring a ‘low, no or reduced’ sugar claim have held steady at one in seven new launches. In addition, better-for-you energizers like vitamin B6 and guarana have remained flat appearing in approximately 22% and 12% of new product launches, respectively.

In 2008, Ocean Spray introduced a line of Cranergy Energy Drinks in America billed as “naturally energizing.” This line of drinks contains real fruit juice blended with natural energizers including five B Vitamins, Vitamin C and green tea extract. These new non-carbonated drinks are clinically shown to improve alertness and make people feel less tired, Mintel advised. Bazza High-Energy Tea is another new energy-inducing beverage made from green tea and EGCG antioxidants and calls itself the “smarter high-energy alternative.”

“These new, natural energy-enhancing products could threaten to steal share from their less healthy counterparts. Often they are not sold in the energy drinks aisle, but in the juice or alternative beverage aisle, which may protect them from the unhealthy stigma some consumers associate with energy drinks,” Ms Dornblaser concluded.