Overall more energy drinks were launched globally in 2015 than in any other year since 2008, with the number of energy drink products launched growing 29% between 2010 and 2015, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).
Within this, Germany was the top market for launches accounting for 9% of global energy drink launches compared to 8% in the US.
The figures see Germany push the US from the top podium for the first time. In 2014 Germany only accounted for 6% of global energy drink NPD, compared to America's 10% lion share.
The figures come amid concern about energy drink consumption in the EU – with Germany a key dissident member state voice in this debate.
In February the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) launched an online forum to raise awareness of possible risks of high consumption in conjunction with alcohol and sports.
The institute has long been an open critic of the energy drink market, and it voiced some of its ongoing concerns upon the release of a safety opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) last year.
The German arm of the consumer group Foodwatch has also proved a particularly fierce critic of the sector, calling for mandatory age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks and arguing that EU-wide label warnings enforced in 2014 are ineffective.
The top five markets for volumes
Despite this political backdrop, global growth in volumes in energy drinks has been robust.
In 2015 global volumes reached 8.8 billion litres – up 10% from the previous year.
Here the US (3.3bn litres), China (1.4bn litres), the UK (561m litres), Thailand (465m litres) and Vietnam (351m litres) ruled the roost.
Meanwhile volume sales in Germany reached 328m litres, followed by 79m litres sold in Red Bull’s home country of Austria and 58m litres in Switzerland.
China saw the greatest increase in volume growth between 2014 and 2015 of 25%. This was followed by Thailand, which saw a rise of 19%.
Wild child of the soft drinks family
Mintel global food and drink analyst Alex Beckett said the global growth documented that the drinks’ energy boosting properties continued to resonate with shoppers.
“Energy drinks remain the controversial, yet undeniably successful, wild child of the soft drinks family,” he said.
He pointed to huge investments into advertising and high profile marketing initiatives from big brands to project an “exciting and edgy image”.
He added: “However, in less developed regions, local energy drink brands are emerging and gaining distribution as a more affordable alternative to multinationals, adding pressure for major players to project a brand identity that consumers from New York to Beijing want to be associated with, and pay more for.”
Marketing tool vs public health?
On an EU level energy drinks have featured centre stage in debates around the approval of caffeine health claims, which now seem set to be blocked.
Danish Socialist Member of European Parliament (MEP) Christel Schaldemose and fellow supporters of a ban on the health claims raised concerns about high consumption of the drinks that are often high in sugar among young people and children in particular.
Discussing the issue with EuroparlTV, Schaldemose said: “We just don’t want to give them [energy drink manufacturers] this additional thing so they can earn a lot of money on a health claim that we think is not suited for young kids.”
Mintel said there had been a marked shift towards organic and ‘natural’ marketing of energy drinks as brands attempt to overcome negative associations and expand their traditional target audience of 18 to 24 year olds to include older consumer groups like busy parents.
The rise of the organic energy drink
Energy drinks launched with organic claims reached a record high in 2015, accounting for 7% of global NPD.
This was up from 4% in 2011 and is set to rise again in 2016, with already 6% of global launches this year carrying an organic claim with most of these coming from Europe.
“The rise in global organic energy drink offerings illustrates how the sector is attempting to appeal to a broader audience by conveying a more natural image. For the foreseeable future, brands will remain under pressure to reformulate with better-for-you ingredients,” Beckett said.