Energy drink makers turn to botanicals for a more natural buzz

6 Aug 2018

Energy drink manufacturers increasingly are looking to natural ingredients to capture market segments that have previously been overlooked, such as women and older consumers.

Energy drink makers turn to botanicals for a more natural buzz

Energy drinks are a niche within the global soft drinks market, representing just 1% of sales, according to trade association Energy Drinks Europe. However, Western Europeans consume about 2 billion litres of energy drinks each year, and Germany leads the world when it comes to innovation in the sector. Although big brands dominate, about 30% of the market is served by small and medium sized companies.

In recent years, many energy drink manufacturers have started to move away from traditional sugar-fuelled and caffeine-charged formulations, toward less extreme ingredients that appeal to a broader audience – especially as natural ingredients have become a priority for many consumers in functional foods and drinks. Market research from Mintel suggests that a majority of consumers across Europe would like to see energy drinks made with natural colours and flavours. In Germany, 41% of consumers said they would pay more for drinks made with only natural energy boosters in a 2015 survey.

Such ingredients include natural caffeine sources as alternatives to synthetic caffeine, such as green tea, yerba mate, green coffee bean extract and guarana, which tap into consumer desire for natural ingredients while still increasing alertness. Applied Food Sciences has developed a water soluble extract from guayusa, an Amazonian leaf with high levels of antioxidants, amino acids and also caffeine.

Lower caffeine drinks look set to gain in popularity in Europe too, after the Food Information for Consumers regulation made warning labels mandatory on energy drinks that contain more than 150 mg of caffeine per litre. Manufacturers and consumers alike are looking for other ingredients for natural energy, such as ginseng, B vitamins and baobab fruit pulp.

Naturex provides caffeine-free ingredients like maca root, ginger and ginseng for use in energy drinks, and Dutch supplier Berrico is among those providing goji berries in juice form or extracts, another popular ingredient for manufacturers seeking natural options.

The market for botanicals in energy drinks looks set to expand still further as energy drinks’ target consumers mature. Those who previously turned to brightly coloured, high sugar drinks to help them party or study until the early hours are now looking for more natural ways to help them manage life with young children. Mintel has identified parents as a key demographic for energy drink makers. In the UK, for example, it found that 35% of consumers drank branded energy drinks, but this rose to 58% of parents with children under the age of five.

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