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BRANDS MAY HAVE TO 'REFORMULATE AND REMOVE' FUNCTIONAL INGREDIENTS - ANALYST WARNS

Safety fears could slow energy drink drive into liquid water enhancers

By Ben Bouckley+

27-May-2014
Last updated on 28-May-2014 at 10:44 GMT

MIO Energy: 60mg of caffeine per squeeze or half teaspoon of product. If Red Bull did the same, would this draw the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?
MIO Energy: 60mg of caffeine per squeeze or half teaspoon of product. If Red Bull did the same, would this draw the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

Despite the presence of MIO Energy, Mintel warns that energy drinks brands could face problems if they try to conquer new territory in the US liquid water enhancer space due to safety concerns.

Elizabeth Sisel, US beverage analyst at Mintel told BeverageDaily.com: “I am hesitant to say that energy drink brands will go to liquid water enhancers due to safety concerns.

“Although MIO already has an energy drinks water enhancer, and there are other private label brands, energy drinks brands would have to concentrate their formulations, and with functional ingredients that have already seen so much controversy in pre-measured drinks,” she added.

Kraft Foods says there is 60mg of caffeine in one squeeze (about half a teaspoon) of 2012 launch MiO Energy, which added to 8oz (227ml) of water makes it equivalent in strength to a 6oz cup of regular coffee.

But Sisel believes that to move into liquid water enhancers, well-known energy drinks brands would probably have to “reformulate and remove those functional ingredients that could be overdosed on – rather than just concentrating on their current formula – in order to counter any consumer health concerns regarding their safety”.

Keurig K-cups with added energy?

She said, however, that she believes that pre-measured K-cups for a Keurig machine may be one option – perhaps increasingly so given Coke’s energy portfolio, and its recent stake purchase in Keurig Green Mountain – in early May the soda giant said it was exercising an option to up its stake to 16%.

Despite a rocky ride due to crusading senators, medical professionals and pressure groups in in 2013 – most of whom are in the anti-energy camp – Sisel that she believes the focus on the supposed health risks of energy drinks is decreasing as the media turns its focus to carbonated soft drinks.

Energy drinks, shots and mixes defied detractors to post US sales of circa. $11.3bn in 2013 and Mintel predicted in an August 2013 report that the market will hit $18bn by 2018. But it warns that “proactive” brands must educate consumers on consumption levels, product safety and ingredients.

But Sisel said she doubted whether the core energy drink consumer was really swayed by concerns about health risks – Mintel says shots bear the brunt of concerns – and said it maturity was less important than increased usefulness through new functionalities in addition to energy.

Muscle Monster – The rise of protein plus energy

Since caffeine is central to the efficacy of energy drinks – but also to concerns about the category – were there any drinks appearing in the US that rely on ingredients other than caffeine to make an energy claim, or is ‘natural’ not synthetic caffeine increasingly the watchword?

“Many drinks are available that focus on natural energy – such as V8 Fusion Energy which touts green tea and B vitamins to provide the energy,” Sisel said.

“Natural claims are something to look out for as this is important to Millennials, which are the category’s main consumer base. I think this is something that will be seen in energy drinks,” she added.

Such is the success of energy drinks that the category is increasingly moving beyond the fizzy, (tutti) frutti proposition into other categories, Sisel noted, pointing to Monster Energy’s Muscle Monster drinks as an example of an energy/protein hybrid.

“Functionality is an interest, specifically protein, so I think we’ll be seeing more with this energy/protein combination,” she said, noting super-fruit based juices also claim functional benefits.

Packaging cues to catch older eyes?

Turning to packaging, we asked Sisel if she believed more mature consumer and older millennials in particular might identify energy drinks too closely with cans and carbonation – did this lend cartons or PET bottles an opportunity, to mark out a more mature energy space?

“I don’t think the goal for energy drinks is to actively expand their target market to older consumers rather than offer more reasons and occasions for their current audience of young adults/millennials to continue drinking,” the analyst replied.

Whereas older consumers were less adaptable, and would more likely continue to prefer coffee and other traditional beverages for energy consumption, Sisel insisted that millennials were prepared to try new things.

“They are also increasing their energy drink consumption as their CSD habits are decreasing,” she said.

“I do not think that changing packaging materials will make any difference, it will be more about the sizes offered and the portfolio brand extensions that encourage older consumers to drink energy drinks,” Sisel added.

*Check out our other special edition articles dedicated to energy drinks below!

'Adolescents don't know what they're drinking': Energy drinks study warns

Beauty meets the EU energy drinks beast…

'Up, up and beyond up!' Eye-catching energy drink launches: The BeverageDaily Top 10

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