Category Report: Diet Energy

CONSUMERS HAVE TWO THINGS IN ABUNDANCE these days: inches on their waistlines and a need for energy. That should make diet energy drinks a no-brainer, right? Skip the sugar. Get the caffeine. Get going.

But what had once been the exclusive domain of stimulant-jacked, artificially-sweetened drinks has been invaded by shots. 5-Hour Energy has become a $500 million brand by delivering an energy drink’s worth of caffeine – sugar free – in a 2 oz. bottle. The brand was positioned as the choice for mature consumers who avoid sugar because their desk job prevents them from burning extra calories, and also because edgy energy drinks clash with their dress shirts and ties.

Despite pressure from that fast-growing brand, the move to diet energy drinks is not on the wane. Top brands’ diets are even performing well.

Linda Smith, owner of Linney’s Sunoco A Plus in Indiana, PA said Red Bull Sugarfree in 12 oz. cans outsells its calorie-laden brother at her store. Monster and Rockstar’s diet varieties also perform well. A number of Smith’s regulars suffer from diabetes, she said, and her store sits near the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus – a place she suspects houses a significant number of young women who need energy but want to watch their figures.

Smith’s sales aren’t as atypical as she thinks. According to Red Bull spokeswoman Patrice Radden, Red Bull Sugarfree represents 24 percent of the company’s total sales, “and its growth is outpacing Red Bull Energy Drink.” She added that Red Bull Sugarfree sells better in 12 and 16 oz. packages, falling in line with Smith’s store-level observation.

Diet energy drinks are also chugged along at Valero Energy stores, according to Ken Zunker, the chain’s category manager for packaged beverages. They lag behind their full calorie brethren, he said, but still post okay numbers. Red Bull and Monster diet varieties move well, Zunker said, but the category lacks depth – other brands fail to make a significant sales contribution.

If that disparity stems from consumers perceiving one diet energy drink as the same as the next, a number of brands have aimed to break out of the herd. Celsius, for example, promises the consumer that the product’s blend of caffeine, green tea extracts and other additives will help them burn 100 calories per can. Hydrive has seen its distribution blossom under its alliance with Dr Pepper/Snapple Group. Other brands, including NERD, Sambazon, and GURU have tried to step out of the shadow of the big energy brands by using stevia sweeteners.

So, diet energy drinks – the top ones, anyway – continue to thrive even under threat from fast-growing 5-Hour. Smaller brands, however, are starting to understand that they need to create a point of difference to break out.

Sambazon. Sambazon launched Amazon Energy Diet to compliment its Amazon Energy Original. The organic product has 40 calories and 9 grams of sugar per serving.

Liquid Lightning. Liquid Lightning introduced its Sugar-Free variety this year, and recently struck a distribution deal with Fedway Associates, Inc. in New Jersey.

The Coca-Cola Co. NOS Energy Drink launched Sugar Free NOS in August of 2009. The new variety delivers 250mg of caffeine in each can.

Red Bull GMBH. Red Bull recently launched its new 16 oz. super sleek can for both its original and sugar-free varieties.

BAWLS Guarana. BAWLS EXXTRA is now available at major chain stores like Super Target, Casey’s, Lucky Supermarkets, Publix, Basha’s, Savemart Supermarkets and Micro Center stores.

Zenedge. Zenedge recently launched its low calorie, sugar-free, lightly-carbonated Lite version.

Hansen Beverage Company. Continuing the belief that bigger is better, Hansen has released a 32 oz. “BFC” can of Lo-Carb Monster Energy. It also announced that it is transitioning Java Monster Lo-Ball from 24-can cases to 12-can cases.

Krank’d Body Fuel. Krank’d 7-In-1 Body Fuel will appear at several east coast ski resorts in PA, NY, WV, and VA this ski season.

CRUNK!!! Energy Drink. Crunk!!! changed its label in the spring of 2009 to better fit its carb-conscious consumers.

Go Fast Sports and Beverage, Co. In the past year, Go Fast Sports and Beverage Co. has begun distributing Go Fast Light 16 oz. in NM, AZ, CO, NEV, WY, MT, AK, KS, MO, SY, MN and TX at several chains, including: King Soopers, Circle K, Kum & Go, 7-Eleven, Sinclair’s, Loaf ‘N Jug and Valero convenience stores.

AriZona Beverage Co. In the last year, AriZona has sampled Caution Low Carb Performance at numerous events including New York Fall 2009 Fashion Week, and New York Spring 2010 Fashion Week, Oscar screening parties, and a series of events with Musictoob.com.

Beverage Innovations, Inc. Beverage Innovations, Inc. launched production of Venga in the United States in May, and also rolled out a new bottle design.

EX Drinks. EX Slim Energy has been newly reformulated and repackaged with only 2 grams of sugar and 15 calories.

Celsius. Celsius has launched its first ever national advertising campaign, “Burn Baby Burn!” featuring national TV, print, radio, internet, events, and outdoor advertising.

Exclusive Energy Company. Exclusive Energy Company launched a sugar-free energy drink to complement its original formulation. It is available in both 8.4 oz. and 16 oz. cans, and case shrink wrapped.

Amplexo USA, Inc. Amplexo USA, Inc. received a new endorsement from an endurance athlete, Cyclist Sam Clark of Draper, Utah, for its diet energy drink Vá lite.

Hydrive Energy LLC. HYDRIVE Energy Drinks introduced a new package design and its fifth flavor, HYDRIVE A – Kiwi Strawberry. HYDRIVE Energy Drinks are being rolled out nationally by Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

DNA Beverage Corp. DNA Beverage Corp., the maker of DNA Energy Drink, has redesigned its label. DNA has grown its distribution into California, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and the Midwest.

NERD Energy. NERD Energy recently added NERD Zero Calorie to its line of focus and energy beverages. The new variety uses stevia as a sweetener.

Monarch Beverages. Monarch Beverages recently introduced a sugar-free, zero-calorie version of its original Rush! Energy citrus flavor. The introduction of Rush! Energy Sugar Free coincided with a brand packaging redesign.

Bigg Juice Industries. Bigg Juice Industries’ Reload Clear won an award for “best Shelf-Appeal” in 2008 at the Montreal Packaging Trade Show.

NOR – CAL BEVERAGE Co. Inc. Go Girl Sugar Free Energy Drink proudly wears the pink ribbon on each can. $.50 of every case sold is donated to breast cancer research, awareness and prevention.

GURU Beverage Co. GURU Beverage Co. announced a product collaboration with Kanye West. The new product is expected to launch later this year in the U.S. and Canada.

Power Trip Beverages. Power Trip “0” has become available at a professional football stadium as well as at several racing venues.

Roaring Lion Energy Drink. Roaring Lion recently introduced its Sugar Free energy drink in 12 oz. slimline cans, 500 mL resealable bottles and 1 gal bag-in-box for bar guns.