Earlier this year, many of the country’s major supermarkets took the move to begin asking customers for ID to prevent sales of energy drinks to those who are under 16. They’ve been back in the news again recently, as the government has announced plans to ban all shops from selling such beverages to children in its drive to tackle childhood obesity.
This leaves a rather convenient ‘grown-up gap’ for operators to fill – while the European Food Safety Authority states that a ‘safe’ amount of daily caffeine intake is up to 3mg per kg of body weight for children and adolescents (3 to 18 years), it increases to 400mg for adults. With total soft drinks being worth over £6.8bn in the channel (CGA Food Service data via Lucozade Ribena Suntory), the category offers an important profit opportunity to really target adult customers by providing a great range of energy and health drinks.
According to the Britvic Soft Drinks Review 2017 – Foodservice and Licensed, though those aged over 35 spend more on soft drinks per trip, sales of energy drinks declined in 2017. This was not solely down to concerns about caffeine and sugar content, however, as there has been a clear shift of consumers prioritising health and wellbeing. “With an increasingly strong customer focus on the health trend, sugar intake from overall soft drink consumption is down more than 17% since 2013 according to Kantar Worldpanel,” states Phil Plowman, MD of Love Taste Co. “Meanwhile, Mintel’s Sports and Energy Drinks UK Report 2016 indicates that 48% actively seek more natural alternatives to soft drinks with a high sugar content.”
In addition, natural energy drinks have experienced a 33% rise (Kantar Worldpanel via Britvic Review), showing that demand for a sustained, natural buzz is there – it’s just down to both manufacturers and operators to meet it in order to give beverage sales a boost.
What suppliers say
Energy, sports and health drinks contribute to a wide range of consumption requirements, so, consequently, they appeal to a large demographic. In recent years, customer interest in exactly what goes into creating food and drink has heightened considerably. And the arrival of the soft drinks sugar levy in April only further accentuated public interest in what we’re putting into our bodies. “Consumers are increasingly looking for natural drinks, especially with the recent introduction of tax on sugary drinks, and are staying away from energy drinks with high levels of caffeine that sometimes give people the ‘jitters’,” says Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, founder of ACTIPH Water.
Sophia Blawat, on-premise marketing manager for Red Bull UK, agrees, adding: “Moderation and sugar intake are high on consumers’ agenda, with some completely omitting alcohol from their diets and others regularly moderating their consumption of alcohol. Consequently, these changes in consumer behaviour create a drive in demand for soft drinks. More and more often, customers are looking to be re-energised by interesting flavours and alcohol-free options.”
There are some brands that have become synonymous with energy drinks and they’re still a big draw for customers – in fact, the availability of a consumer’s favourite brand is the number one driver in the decision to drink soft drinks out of home (CGA Peach BrandTrack 2016 via Lucozade Ribena Suntory). “The basis of a good energy and sports drinks range includes category leaders,” says Lee Cannon, category development manager – OOH for Lucozade Ribena Suntory. “Stocking recognisable brands shows visitors that their favourite drinks are available and encourages impulse purchases on the go or when buying food.”
Drinks such as Purdey’s, the fastest growing energy brand (Nielsen Scantrack via Britvic), appear to be appealing to customers’ need for a caffeine- and sugar-free energy boost. The spring water contains added vitamins and botanical extracts and is said to reduce tiredness and fatigue while also supporting the immune system. Furthermore, adds Russell Goldman, commercial director – foodservice and licensed for Britvic: “With its sleek look and premium positioning, Purdey’s can premiumise your energy offering – with a higher price than traditional energy drinks.”
Radnor Hills have provided new additions to the category in the form of enhanced water products that are ideal energy boosters or for those with an active lifestyle, as well as being sources of on-the-go hydration. Radnor Plus Energy contains natural guarana and ginseng extracts to help restore and enhance wellbeing and create a natural caffeine kick to support energy levels. Available in two flavours of Lemon and Lime and Cranberry and Raspberry, it’s also naturally sweetened with fruit extract and stevia. There’s also Radnor Plus Protein, which contains 12g of whey protein and is sweetened with stevia.
What operators are doing
Though slightly oxymoronic, healthy fast food is in high demand and some businesses have taken the step to make their own health drinks in-house. When Pod, which describes its offering as ‘Big on taste and rich in health benefits’, released its summer menu back in May, it came with the announcement that its new Blends With Benefits smoothie range would be entirely vegan – not only ticking off another key consumer trend, but also allowing them to appeal to a wider range of people.
The new range includes a Breakfast super shake, filled with oats, banana, flaxseed and soy milk, created to keep customers energised until lunch; the avocado, edamame beans, spinach, apple juice, mango and ginger-filled Lean green bean to provide goodness on-the-go; and the Plant powered protein shake to provide ‘natural fuel’, which consists of soy milk, banana, tofu, berry compote, peanut butter, strawberry, agave, and chia seeds.
Lovefit Café in Brighton calls itself ‘the UK’s original protein restaurant’ – situated between two gyms, it should come as no surprise that the majority of its customers are those interested in fitness. Its drinks menu is almost as extensive as the food one, with juices, smoothies and shakes even having their own menu. While protein smoothies are its best-sellers, it is conscious of providing health drinks for everyone – customers can opt for dairy-free milk or even vegan protein powder. “Though we tend to focus more on the gym side, we also get people who come in with their partners who might not go to the gym but want something as well, so not all of our drinks contain protein,” explains Jason Bright, owner of Lovefit. “You can’t be too specialist because Brighton’s not big enough to give you that kind of scale – it’s not like it’s London! And being in the middle of town we get a lot of tourists, so we don’t want to miss a piece of that cake as well.”
Its Super Smoothies are designed to provide a lift for whatever need state and are packed full of beneficial ingredients. The Morning After, for example, is a blend of pineapple, blueberry, banana, honey, yogurt, wheatgrass, rosehip, nettle, milk thistle and linden flower – that’s a whole heap of health!
Leo Stervander is the director of Kobo Café in Angel, which has ‘a focus on clean, organic and healthy eating’. Though it’s only been open since February of last year, the concept is proving to be particularly popular in the capital, so Stervander has hopes of expanding within the near future. “People want to be able to pick up food and drinks on-the-go, especially in a busy city like London, and I think ‘naturalness’ is an element that should be more present,” he says. “Personally, if I know I’m going to have a certain type of drink a couple of times every week, then it makes a big difference if it’s something that gives me long-lasting energy and good nutrition, rather than being sugar-based or an empty product.”
The first thing that goes into creating the juices and smoothies at Kobo is a good nutritional base, Stervander says, to ensure they don’t have to add or remove much. “When you do that, and if you have the right mindset from the beginning, you can actually make things yourself instead of trying to take away or add things,” he says. “With our products, we do everything from scratch in-house and we always try to get the fundamentals right.”
Creating your drinks in-house has its advantages: for consumers, it gives an establishment extra brownie points for going that extra mile and using ‘real’ ingredients; for operators, they can charge a premium for providing such a service. However, it’s not feasible for every business and, ultimately, it’s down to operators who know their sites and their clientele to decide.
Whether you decide to make the drinks on site or choose to stock consumers’ brand favourites – or provide a combination of both – what’s clear is that ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ are the new buzzwords when it comes to energy drinks. Customers want their get up and gos to make them feel good.