Although some c-store operators admit to being worried about regulators turning their focus to energy shots, many have voiced the opinion that the category has at least another year of strong growth ahead of it.
According to numbers from SymphonyIRI Group for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 26, 2010, energy shots saw a whopping 35.58% jump in sales compared to the same period in 2009, to more than $771 million in U.S. convenience stores. Top players include 5-Hour Energy, as well as Stacker, Red Bull, Monster, Nitro and more. The boost comes on top of a surge in the energy drink category, which turned in another strong performance in the c-store channel, up 14.29% to just under $604 million. Two-ounce shots sold more than 247.78 million units in convenience stores in 2010, up 31.85%, and sold for an average price of $3.11.
Despite occasional controversy, demand remains strong for energy products, and the segment is poised to become even more significant as its appeal broadens beyond its original target consumer group.
Gary Hemphill, a senior vice president at Beverage Marketing Corp.’s information services division, said the core market for energy shots has been younger males, but that appeal is evolving. “Energy is a need that spans both sexes and a wide range of ages,” he said. “So the energy-products consumer has begun to broaden well beyond the original core consumer, and companies have begun to market their products accordingly.”
As the category has evolved, convenience store operators face the challenge of finding space for new products and core SKUs.
“Energy shots are still a growing segment for us, but nobody yet poses a threat to the 5-Hour brand in our market just yet,” said Tim Cote, vice president of marketing for Plaid Pantries Inc. in Beaverton, Ore. “I have seen some success in this market in big-box stores with various value brands retailing for around $1. “So far, what seems clear is the customer does not want a brand that is an offshoot of an energy drink.”
Plaid Pantries’ goal throughout 2011, Cote made clear, is increasing promotional activity around the 5-Hour line. “This item was largely left alone until recently. Now we are seeing retailers of all sizes price-promoting this brand,” he said.
Julian Mellentin, who tracks health and nutrition products for New Nutrition Business, predicted that 2011 should be the year of the energy shot. “The astonishingly rapid success of energy shots—a market which has grown in the U.S. from zero to over $1 billion in retail sales in six years—reflects the extent to which there are huge areas of untapped opportunities in products for energy.”
The category’s soaring success is generating opportunities to create new brands, segments and categories through strategies focusing on groups of consumers who aren’t served by the energy drink brands currently available. For instance, new ingredients with higher “natural and healthy” qualities can be put into shots to give customers a quick nutritional boost.