As one of the best performing sectors in soft drinks, the total energy drinks sector continues to grow in both value and volume, and is now worth more than £1.2billion in GB (Nielsen).

With consumption taking place almost entirely in the home in recent months, demand has increased for take-home multipack cans of energy drinks.

Monster Green and Monster Ultra White take-home four-packs, from Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), are helping to cater to this demand.

CCEP’s broader range of four-pack cans, which include Monster Juiced and Monster Ultra variants, are also performing well, offering shoppers choice and diversity of refreshing flavours.

Shoppers are planning to focus more on saving money in the next 12 months, which is understandable considering 75% of households report that their income has reduced since the start of the coronavirus outbreak (IGD).

“With this in mind, and to reassure consumers that they can get the products they want, at an affordable price, PMPs can be a great way for convenience retailers to create a point of difference,” says Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at CCEP.

The Monster Energy original and Monster Juiced ranges have a PMP of £1.39 and the zero-sugar Monster Ultra range has a PMP of £1.29. Monster Green four can multipack also comes in a PMP at £4.59. The six strong Relentless range, which includes original and flavours like Mango and Apple & Kiwi, has a PMP of £1 and new performance energy range Reign Total Body Fuel has a PMP of £1.49.

As well as focussing on sugar and calories, some consumers are increasingly seeking products that are more natural. Launched last summer, Coca-Cola Energy includes caffeine from naturally-derived sources, guarana extracts and B vitamins, and is available with and without sugar. It was designed to fill a gap in the market, and to appeal to a new audience by providing an energy drink with the great Coca-Cola taste that people know and love. Coca-Cola Energy has enjoyed good sales since launching last year and was the fourth largest on-the-go soft drink innovation in 2019 (Nielsen).

“We also know that the lockdown period has seen a growing emphasis on staying fit and healthy, with people making an effort to keep active at home, including taking part in online exercise classes, solo home workouts and outdoor pursuits like running and cycling,” adds Burgess. “Many of these habits have been retained presenting an opportunity for wholesalers to grow their sales by offering products to those looking to fuel up while they keep fit.”

Reign Total Body Fuel includes ingredients designed to enhance performance during workouts, such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which can help to prevent protein muscle breakdown, and L-Arginine, which improves blood flow and stimulates the release of growth hormones. The recipe is also enriched with Vitamins B3, B6 and B12, which contribute to reducing fatigue and normalising metabolism.

Reign Total Body Fuel enables wholesalers to tap into the performance drinks opportunity in GB. The segment is worth more than $400m in the US and is growing by 41% (Nielsen), highlighting the untapped potential in this market.

Since launching at the end of 2019, Reign has become the number one energy drink in GB, worth nearly £5m (Nielsen).

“Consumers are becoming more and more adventurous when it comes to experimenting with new and exciting variants of their favourite soft drinks,” comments Burgess. “More than a third of shoppers agree that they like trying new things when grocery shopping, and people are attracted to intriguing flavour combinations and eye-catching, colourful packaging and displays. The Monster Juiced range has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2018, delivering against demand for new, exotic flavours in the category.”

Mainstream energy is the only drink-now segment that has shown growth across both the last full year (+5.2%) and the latest quarter (+9.2%) against the backdrop of a challenging year for single-serve formats, with total drink-now down -10% (IRI).

Energy is the still biggest category within ‘drink now’ soft drinks worth £1.4 billion (IRI) and mainstream energy is the most resilient segment that will drive recovery quicker than any other, so it is critical that retailers get it right in-store.

“Energy is a fast-growing part of the soft drinks market delivering the highest profit per litre for retailers, with over 1 in 3 soft drinks sold in convenience stores being an Energy drink,” says Adrian Troy, AG Barr’s Marketing Director.

“The energy category has always been driven by people’s needs and there are currently big sections of society that are busier than ever before” continues Troy. “We may have lost the every day busy morning commute, which has always been a hotspot for energy consumption, but it was replaced by the pressures of lockdown restrictions for many, juggling childcare and the need to catch up on work late into the evenings, which creates the need to feel alert and awake throughout the day.”

“The category has to be exciting and varied to keep these shoppers engaged,” Troy explains. “These consumers are increasingly opting for flavoured variants when choosing an energy drink, with flavoured energy now accounting for 34% of the mainstream energy market and growing faster than original energy.”

IRN-BRU Energy, from the UK’s number one flavoured carbonate brand (IRI), 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, according to AG Barr.

Simon Gray, Founder and Managing Director of Boost Drinks, comments: “The demand for healthier alternatives has had a huge impact on the energy drinks market over the past few years and it shows no signs of slowing.”

With 13% of energy sales being Sugar Free, growing 35% YOY (IRI), no-and low-sugar drinks are now a must-stock to maximise growth opportunities.

To cater for this trend, Boost launched a sugar-free range. The brand also reformulated its recipe and reduced the amount of sugar across the entire energy range.

“We’ve focused on maintaining the same delicious taste and brilliant value that Boost has built its reputation on,” adds Gray. “Our sugar-free variants are particularly popular with the younger generation and we know that amongst 18-30-year olds, low sugar content is the most important factor when choosing a soft drink, with 86% of young people believing that sugar is bad for their health.”

The sport occasion is particularly important for sports and energy drinks as consumers search for a product that quenches their thirst whilst offering them a boost to help them make the most of each day. As younger generations also focus more and more on their health and fitness, they’re purchasing products that keep them hydrated during their workout. As a result, the Boost Sport range is the fastest selling sports drink brand where sold in the UK (IRI).

Many customers are in agreement about the benefits of protein products, 36% of adults believe that there are at least three separate advantages to consumer high protein products (IRI). It’s clear that consumers are focused on the day-to-day actions they can take to benefit their health and protein products are a great healthy and nutritious option for them.

With two in five UK consumers aged 16-24 consuming protein products in the last six months (IRI) it’s also clear that the biggest opportunity is with the younger generation of consumers who live a fast, on-the-go lifestyle. This generation are regularly looking for easy to consume, healthy alternatives that help them get the boost they need.

With so many protein options out there it’s understandable why retailers might feel overwhelmed by the choice and what might work for them. Protein now comes in many different formats, from confectionery to breakfast bars and biscuits to soups and drinks.

“For that reason it makes sense to choose a product that they know can do the job, is good value and supplies great levels of protein to the consumers whilst making sure that it also offers great returns for retailers and wholesalers alike,” says Gray. “That is why Protein Boost will certainly be a product to stock over the coming year.”

Protein Boost contains 20g of protein and is packaged in ready-to-drink bottles which can be stocked in the chiller or on-shelf.

The out of home hot and cold coffee market is already worth over £20.2m and is growing at 51.9% value year-on-year (IRI) and to cater for the growing RTD coffee market, in March last year Boost launched two new, chilled ready to drink coffee SKUs – Silky Smooth Caffe Latte and Full Bodied Double Espresso with Milk, both available in £1 PMP cans.

“By continuing to grow our offering, we’re able to help wholesalers offer products that are on trend and popular with their customers and this popularity has show in sales figures over recent months,” Gray continues. “The pandemic has had a huge impact on the way we live our day-to-day lives and in turn is having an impact on the way we shop. Despite the rules changing to allow more frequent shopping and non-essential shopping, frequency of shop visits is still down on previous years.”

Year-on-year footfall has declined a further 70% this year as fewer people visit the high street (Reuters). But consumers are still looking for an energy boost to take home when they’re in store – which means, in the last couple of months, Boost has seen an uptake in sales in both multipack and larger formats.

“This change in formats shows that despite some people’s lives slowing down, they’re still seeking a pick me up at home,” Gray comments. “For retailers looking to make the most of this trend, we would recommend stocking a range of larger formats.”

Boost’s 1l energy product is now the number one take home energy product and accounts for 60% of the entire take home energy category in independent convenience (IRI).

“As the economy opens up and more workers to return to their workspaces, we expect to see impulse sales rise again,” Gray continues. “To ensure retailers are ready for this, we advise them to introduce attractive offers across popular impulse ranges.”

Boost’s impulse ranges have continued to perform strongly through lockdown, Boost Energy 250ml SKU is the number four soft drink in the market according to units sold and is the second fastest selling energy drink within the independent convenience sector (IRI). Boost Sport remains the fastest selling sport drinks brand within the independent convenience sector and Boost still holds first, second and fourth place for highest selling soft drinks in Northern Ireland (IRI).

“Making products stand out on shelf is vital,” suggests Gray. “We would always recommend supplier POS to help them do just that. From our relationships with retailers they’ve told us first-hand how important strong POS is. It’s vital for them to be informed of the margins of the product but it’s also important that they stand out on shelf.

“It may sound really simple but warehouse layout is really important. Signposting the aisles and directing people to what they need with ease will make it even more likely for them to purchase more in store.

“We would also recommend a strong digital presence, more and more retailers are looking online for offers and products. It’s important for wholesalers to maximise digital output through banners, apps and email campaigns to keep customers engaged and coming back for more.”

Phil Sanders, Out of Home Commercial Director at Britvic, comments: “There is a growing desire to look and feel good, and as a result, wellness is one of the latest soft drink segments to come under the spotlight, with 31% of shoppers interested in premium soft drinks that contain additional functional benefits. More people are looking for benefits above and beyond their standard diets, such as boosting energy levels, maintaining a healthy heart and encouraging strong brain function.”

As a result, wellness drinks are now more prevalent than ever. The offering of ‘added benefit’ products, that contain naturally sourced ingredients, fruit juice and provide added health benefits, is also on the rise. Wellness drinks have delivered +14.6% growth over the last two years, which exceeds the +4.3% growth of the total soft drinks category (Nielsen).

“Therefore, wholesalers should ensure their range reflects this growing demand for health and wellness,” suggests Sanders.

Purdey’s, the number one sparkling vitality brand (Nielsen), delivers all the benefits customers look for in functional soft drinks – taste, wellness and energy. Containing energising B-Vitamins, botanicals, and real fruit juice, as well as only naturally-occurring sugars, Purdey’s gives consumers a refreshing and revitalising lift.

Originally launched in 1988, it is a trusted vitality drink, which has doubled in size in the past five years (Nielsen). In the past three years alone, it has added +£2.5m of additional value to the soft drinks category (Nielsen).

Purdey’s is expecting to continue this growth next year, with the addition of exciting new products and innovation, which will appeal to shoppers who want additional wellness benefits from their soft drink choices. “Wholesalers know their customers best and as such, we always want to collaborate with them to bring together our category expertise with their customer and business knowledge,” adds Sanders. “Together we should strive to be open minded to new ideas and fresh thinking, as trends and consumer behaviour forever adapt and change. The world is moving at such a pace, so it is crucial that manufacturers and wholesalers collaborate in order to achieve mutual success.”

Mark Tanner, Head of Independent and Wholesale at Carabao, comments: “While the demand for healthier energy drinks was already very evident pre COVID, the current pandemic has made shoppers even more conscious of what they consume and the desire to buy lower sugar, healthier drinks has skyrocketed, with 89% of shoppers expressing an aspiration to eat & drink more healthily.”

As the fastest growing energy drink brand in the UK (Nielsen), Carabao is well placed to capitalise on the need for healthier products, since each of its fruit-flavoured energy drinks contain only 63 calories per can. Last year, Carabao launched three of its flavours, Green Apple, Original and Mandarin Orange in ‘only 69p’ price marked cans and these have driven strong sales growth for the brand.

On the back of the successful introduction of its PMP range Carabao has now introduced its newest and best-selling flavour, Mixed Berry as a priced-marked pack. At only 63 calories per can, Carabao Mixed Berry is an ideal addition to the already thriving range of its ‘only 69p’ products. Mixed Berry is the number two energy launch in the total market for 2020 YTD (Nielsen).

Carabao is growing at +31% value sales in the Convenience channel, well ahead of the category average at +11% (Nielsen).

“Carabao’s PMP range continues to thrive meaning that wholesalers should ensure they have plenty in stock to satisfy demand,” suggests Tanner. “There is a plethora of opportunity for wholesalers to stock products that are lower in sugar as the energy drinks category continues to expand with products emerging from brands looking to capitalise on this trend. However, these products often carry a higher RRP than the unhealthier choices, making it difficult for shoppers to justify making the right choices for their health.”

“In order to capitalise on the energy drink opportunity wholesalers need to ensure an attractive price point, especially in this time of economic recession,” Tanner continues. “Price marked packs are important in creating a level playing field within the marketplace for wholesalers and retailers alike, giving both an opportunity to experience sales growth and therefore make a sizeable profit.”

Carabao is supported by football sponsorship. Well known for its partnership with the EFL via title sponsorship of the Carabao Cup, as well as a global partnership with Chelsea FC, the brand has recently taken this north of the border by becoming the official energy drink sponsor of both Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian FC.

“Energy drinks can continue to be a key growth driver for the wider soft drinks market with a variety of options that satisfy a number of consumer trends,” adds Tanner. “Carabao is confident that its lower-sugar (all of its products are below the UK Sugar Tax Levy threshold) and low-calorie content (only 63 calories per can), are a perfect example of this.”

According to Carabao’s Taste of the Nation report, only 8% of consumers feel that energy drinks taste good, but 71% of shoppers would be likely to purchase an energy drink if it tasted great.

“With so few healthier energy drinks on the market that are able to overcome the perception of poor taste, wholesalers should stock up on Carabao to maximise the potential from shopper demand for healthier, functional drinks that taste amazing,” Tanner adds. “Carabao is the ideal energy drink hero brand to stock to maximise wholesaler revenue from healthier energy drinks.”

A Red Bull spokesperson, comments: “Red Bull continues to drive growth in the market. Despite changes in shopper behaviour, the brand continues to grow, with sales up £13.4m vs YTD last year (Nielsen).

Shoppers are putting more Red Bull in their baskets, more frequently and Red Bull will continue to support positive category growth in 2021.”

In the latest six months, Red Bull sold 37.7% more Sugarfree volume through multipacks (Nielsen) – with these variants growing penetration by 40.4% in the same period (Kantar).

Red Bull Zero relaunched into the market in early 2020 with a reformulated taste profile to appeal to shopper demands.

Red Bull Zero has sold 1m cans since launching earlier this year and is one of the biggest NPD contributors of growth to the Sports & Energy category, adding almost £1.3 of value as part of Red Bull’s £23m YTD growth vs 2019 (Nielsen). Due to the strong rate of sale, trade and shopper demand for this pack, a Red Bull Zero 250ml 4 pack has been launched to meet these needs.

This October, Red Bull announced its latest campaign, Red Bull Air Mail, an on-pack promotion featuring on Red Bull Energy Drink 250ml 4-packs in the impulse channel, launched to wider grocery this November.

Red Bull Air Mail can be found in-store via the limited-edition sleeve on Red Bull Energy Drink 250ml 4-packs.

Once opened, the inside of the pack will become a postcard to sample a friend or family member, who can then simply enter a code online to easily redeem a 4-pack for themselves to get them through a busy week. “With the value of Red Bull multipacks growing +42.9% in the latest half year, now is the perfect time for retailers to stock up, Red Bull has responded to consumer trends and is aiming to drive a better understanding of Red Bull for multiple moments of need, identifying its four key moments of need as sports & fitness, work & study, socialising and travel occasions.”

Rachel Austerberry, Head of Convenience and High Street, Grenade, comments: “While the importance of diet and overall fitness has grown hugely in the past five years, sentiment surrounding the importance of healthy living has reached fever pitch in the wake of Covid-19. When it comes to diet, reducing sugar consumption is the number one priority for consumers looking for healthy options, so wholesalers should tap into this growing trend and reflect it within their product selections.”

However, for consumers, it’s hugely important that products don’t compromise on taste (HIM). Providing an indulgent solution, sports nutrition brand, Grenade’s Carb Killa bar comprises just 2g sugar and 20g protein.

Grenade’s Carb Killa bars are the primary driver of growth within the category, with eight of the top 10 bars for both sales value and cash rate of sale being Carb Killa bars (IRI). Its ‘core six’ flavours driving this growth include Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel, White Chocolate Salted Peanut, Dark Chocolate Raspberry, Cookie Dough, White Chocolate Cookie, and Peanut Nutter.

Sports nutrition brand, Grenade, prides itself on consistent, category leading NPD, with new flavours regularly added to its portfolio. During the height of lockdown in March, Grenade introduced its Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Carb Killa bar which is currently the fastest-growing protein bar in the market (IRI).

Accounting for a 54% share of the Convenience market, Grenade is the biggest protein bar brand in the UK, and following lockdown now sells one Carb Killa bar every two seconds (IRI).

With the biggest share of the market, Grenade owes its success to its focus on the category drivers of health, taste and innovation. Carb Killa bars comprise just 2g of sugar and 20g of satiating protein, proven to keep people fuller for longer, and less likely to make poor snacking decisions.

“In order for wholesalers to maximise returns, they should double down on tried and tested low sugar, high protein ranges that are proven to resonate with consumers, and proven to turn a profit,” suggests Austerberry. “Ten of the top ten bars for sales value are all Carb Killa bars, so building a permanent home for the range should be a top priority. Moreover, positioning this within areas of heavy footfall flow will further benefit stores, with impulse sales being a key factor in this.”

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