Mintel: 52% of UK sports and energy drink consumers would cut back or stop the habit if sugar tax is enacted

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mintel research found a significant consumer interest in new product innovation using more health-oriented ingredients. ©iStock/kieferpix
Mintel research found a significant consumer interest in new product innovation using more health-oriented ingredients. ©iStock/kieferpix

Related tags: Energy drinks, Drink, Water, Coffee

The upcoming UK sugar tax in 2018 is expected to have an adverse effect on volume sales of sports and energy drinks with 52% of consumers in the UK saying they would either cut back or stop drinking sugary sports and energy drinks, according to Mintel analyst Amy Price.

“However, 37% of the users who said that they’d reduce consumption would switch to low or no-sugar versions, offering an ongoing incentive for companies to innovate in this area as a way to keep consumers buying into the category,”​ Price told BeverageDaily.

Opportunities for naturally-derived ingredients

Mintel research has highlighted significant consumer interest in new product innovation using more health-oriented ingredients. 


According to the report, 28% of consumers who drink sports and energy drinks say they would be interested in seeing cold-pressed juice incorporated in these beverages. Additionally, 25% expressed interest in trying these sports and energy drinks made with mineral water and 22% expressed interest in seeing bits of fruit included in these products.

Responding to this rising interest in more clean ingredients, Gatorade recently launched its Organic Gatorade line, which the company believes will be the new norm for sports drinks moving forward.

According to Price, there are opportunities for sports and energy drinks companies to switch to more naturally-derived ingredients.

“Approaching two in five (37%) consumers say that it would be good to know the origin of ingredients used in sports and energy drinks, for instance Sicilian lemons or Brazilian guarana,” ​she said.

“While another three in ten (29%) would be interested in reduced sugar sports and energy drinks made with plant-derived sweeteners.”

Disassociation between sports drinks and hydration

Mintel research shows that the sports drink category is losing sales to bottled water and energy drinks, with bottled water estimated to have grown by 5% in 2015. 

“Mintel’s consumer research shows that water is more closely associated with hydration and performance during and post-sports, worryingly for the sports drinks market, which has prided itself on efficacy,”​ Price said.

However, as a whole, the sports drink category is failing to deliver the message of its functionality to consumers.

“Sports drinks are proven to enhance physical endurance,”​ Price said. “However, it would appear that sports drinks are failing to get this functionality message across or that the existing barriers are too great to cause people to switch from other drinks such as water.”

Innovation blurs the line between categories

Price said that one of the key takeaways for beverage manufacturers from the report is that innovation in the non-alcoholic drinks market is already blurring the lines between different beverage categories. This presents opportunities for sports and energy drinks to expand into new areas.

Rock Star Energy Water and POW energy waters are examples of products looking to offer the benefits of water alongside the “pick-me-up”​ properties of an energy drink.

According to Mintel’s research, category users are likely to respond well to this approach, as well as the “naturalness”​ associated with ingredients such as cold-pressed juice.

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