Thirst quencher/sports drinks remain the most formidable competitor for energy drinks, as this type of beverage attracts a large constituency of energy drink users. Energy drinks are also subject to competition from other energy-boosting beverages such as ready-to-drink iced coffee and tea beverages. However, most interesting, as always, has been the revolution within.
At least in their Western product incarnations, energy drinks have long been associated with raves and college cocktails. The karma of energy drinks is an update on sex and drugs and rock ’n roll, with extreme and racing sports thrown in.
But then energy shots arrived with their purely utilitarian positioning. According to David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, “If energy drinks are about loving the nightlife, energy shots are about getting through the daily grind. An energy boost is, bar none, the top functional benefit consumers look for from foods and especially from grab-and-gulp beverages.”
A loss of edge came with a gain in audience: students who are holding down full-time jobs and course loads rather than too many cocktails, soccer moms, moonlighters fighting the recession to keep family finances afloat, long-distance commuters and truckers, night shift workers -- all types of consumers lined up to buy 24-packs of energy shots.
The shift from edgy to everyday came full circle as energy drink marketers themselves reined in the party vibe, and energy drinks became available at nearly every type of retail outlet imaginable, from Walmart to push carts. For every old school sympathizing-with-the-devil energy drink brand, there are now many New Kids on The Block. And while the prime time energy drink brands may not be ready for boy bands as spokespersons, vanilla has infiltrated the energy drink market, both literally and figuratively, along with flavors like pink lemonade.
There is demand for greater diversity in energy drink and shot products, according to the Packaged Facts report. Sales-tracking figures confirm that the market is dynamic enough to allow for all-around opportunity rather than just bull-eat-dog dynamics. The energy drink category experienced 42% growth from 2008-2012, the recession notwithstanding, while energy shots grew 168% and energy drink mixes stepped up to the plate.
In the energy drinks market as elsewhere, brand line extension and new marketer entry are both important to meeting varied consumer needs and keeping short-attention-span consumers engaged. Energy drink marketers can leverage several growth areas and positioning strategies, particularly targeted marketing. And any energy drink purveyors who are so determined can retain their edginess by taking brand imaging, product innovation, flavor juxtapositions, packaging technology, and marketing tactics to a new level of extremity -- creating a next-generation beverage that’s not your mother’s energy drink.