The figures from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveal strong growth in the US energy drink category, but suggest a slight turn away from the ingredient, which has generated much controversial media coverage of late.
Analyzing the ingredients in energy drinks launched between 2004 and 2008, Mintel GNPD found that taurine – which it calls a “popular, yet controversial energy-boosting ingredient” – was used in more than one in four (27 percent) energy drinks in 2004, but was slightly reduced to one in five (21 percent) in 2008.
This reduction in use comes amidst general growth of the category: New energy drink product launches increased 110 percent over the four-year period. This strong performance tracks the overall growth witnessed in the beverage market as a whole, which saw product launches increase 240 percent from 2004 to 2009.
As well as taurine, Mintel singled out caffeine, which it identified as another ingredient that can cause “negative effects” in excess amounts. However, in contrast to taurine, caffeine was present in “nearly all” new energy drinks produced in the period.
The continued success of the category in general suggests that, in pursuit of an energy boost, consumers appear willing to overlook the often ‘unhealthy’ profile of these products.
"There is a significant market right now for drinks offering a boost of energy. 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," said Lynn Dornblaser, Mintel global new products expert.
Nevertheless, energy drinks making a 'low, no or reduced' calorie claim increased from 6 percent to 11 percent between 2004 and 2008. Those with a 'low, no or reduced' sugar claim have held steady at one in seven new launches, said Mintel.
The use of what Mintel calls “better-for-you energizers” – such as vitamin B6 and guarana – remained flat during the period, appearing in approximately 22 percent and 12 percent of new product launches, respectively.
The group also highlighted a new sub-category of health-positioned energy-enhancing products, which may start to creep in on the energy drink sector. These are generally fruit juices enhanced with vitamins or plant extracts, and are positioned as ‘naturally energizing’.
An example is Ocean Spray’s new line of Cranergy Energy Drinks, which contains 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. 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,’” noted Mintel.
"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," said Dornblaser.