Within the spectrum of the energy drinks category sit the neon-hued brands with synthetically-produced caffeine equivalent to several cups of coffee per serving on one end and on the other, brands touting clean and natural forms of caffeine from guayusa, guarana, green coffee beans, and green tea that tend to have "pretty rough sensory profiles" and price points that make it inaccessible to key demographics of the category, said Church.
Rowdy Energy is aiming to be somewhere in the middle, said Church at the Natural Products Expo West Show in Anaheim, California, last week.
Launched three years ago by Church, a beverage entrepreneur, and 2x NASCAR Cup Champion Kyle Busch, Rowdy Energy is billing itself as a clean, all-natural, better-for-you, and functional energy drink with 160mg of caffeine from green coffee beans and green tea in its core line. Its most recent innovation, Power Burn, is an extension of its core line but with a sleeker, more female-friendly look and feel, noted Church.
Its positioning, however, is not much different from many other brands (e.g. Celsius, RUNA, ZOA) all competing for the same whitespace within the $17bn energy drink category, so what makes Rowdy Energy special?
According to Church, Rowdy Energy products have a smoother taste profile because of its use of natural flavors to mask the bitterness of the caffeine and its commitment to using natural sweeteners with its blend of allulose, erythritol, stevia, and monk fruit (Celsius is sweetened with sucralose, for instance).
"For me sensory is really critical. If you think of it as a bell curve and on the two tails you’ve got one end of consumers that don’t care if it’s good for you, they just want it to taste good, and on the other tail you’ve got people that don’t care if it tastes like cardboard if they know it’s good for them. But those two tails are the vocal minority, and they only make up about 15% of the overall market," Church told FoodNavigator-USA.
'No-crash' energy formula
The company also touts a 'no-crash' energy formula which uses "efficacious levels" of L-theanine, an amino acid and nootropic ingredient, which the company claims provides heightened mental focus and awareness long after the caffeine is metabolized.
"Caffeine metabolizes out of your system in about three hours, but if you use L-theanine with it, it extends the caffeine release over time. People that drink Rowdy feel like they’re in the zone, they feel locked in," said Church.
Rowdy Energy's core line of 16-ounce cans available in a variety of flavors are in over 20,000 retail locations, primarily in c-stores where the products are affordably priced for all types of consumers, claimed Church.
"The people tending to pick up Rowdy are either a blue collar worker on their way to work at 6:30 in the morning or somebody on their way to the gym who is generally picking up a couple," he noted.
"Repeat rate is really important and one of the things that we’re seeing with this product is that the repeat rates are about 45% which is super high for functional energy drinks, and we have the highest repeat rate of any of the emerging brands."
Gender imbalance in energy drinks
Energy drinks have historically been a male-heavy category, despite both female and male consumers seeking out ways to energize their day.
"Men and women consume about the same amount of caffeine on a daily basis, but energy drinks skew about 70:30 (male to female). The reason that it is when you look at the data, is that women feel energy drinks are full of crap and for the most part they are. Our thesis is find that white space for that female demographic and really try to drive more consumption there," said Church.
The whitespace the company found is in thermogenic beverages, a niche sub category of energy drinks, that only a handful of brands are playing in. Rowdy Energy debuted its new Power Burn line at Expo West last week which contains the same amount of caffeine as its core line but claims to burn 145 calories just from drinking one can, due to a specific blend of amino acids that work in conjunction with the caffeine to rev up metabolism, according to clinical studies paid for by Rowdy Energy (which are not yet publicly available but undergoing peer review, said Church).
"We’ve got high levels of amino acids in it which is really great for lean muscle mass building and blood glucose maintenance. We’re also using significant levels of potassium and magnesium, about 500mg. None of the other brands have done clinical studies that we have, so they can’t make the same claims," said Church.
The line, available in four flavors (pink lemonade, pineapple passion fruit, mango dragon fruit, and watermelon), has launched exclusively at 7-Eleven convenience stores and with the aim of rolling out to more retailers including those in the natural channel such as Whole Foods.