Can 5-hour’s “New and Improved Taste” Sway Consumers?

5-hour Improved TasteIt’s a given that few, if any, consumers seeking refreshment would reach for a bottle of 5-hour Energy. Packaged in tiny 1.93 oz. shot-sized bottles, the liquid, loaded with B-vitamins and energy-stimulating ingredients like caffeine and taurine, is clearly formulated and intended for functional use.

Yet while refreshment might be out the equation, the taste of 5-hour, often described as medicinal, is not. Taste has long been a point of contention for consumers of the brand, and Living Essentials, the maker of 5-hour Energy, acknowledged as much in last year’s “Yummification” campaign. Launched in July, 2014, the marketing program was aimed primarily at current users who found the taste of 5-hour products to be unpleasant, and encouraged customers to mix the energy shot with other non-alcoholic beverages, such as juices and smoothies.

Though Living Essentials deemed the “Yummification” campaign a success, it lasted just a few months, and it was clear that consumer dissatisfaction with taste remained a dilemma for the company. Yet, with the recent declaration that all 5-hour products have been reformulated with a “new and improved taste,” Living Essentials is hoping to quell at least some of unease associated with the energy shots.

Earlier this week, Living Essentials issued a press release altering media about the flavor overhaul, which the company hailed as “the most significant change to the taste of the product in 5-hour ENERGY’s 10-year history.”

In an e-mail to BevNET, Melissa Skabich, Director of Communications for 5-hour Energy, said that the impetus for the updated taste profile came from market research that the company conducted in 2014. The new taste is “a result of what we heard from our consumers, so the change happened quickly,” she said, and that the feedback wasn’t specific to any particular variety of the brand.

“The message is clear,” Skabich said in the release. “Our customers want an energy shot that tastes great, and we’ve given them what they’ve asked for.”

Skabich told BevNET that while the flavor of the product has changed, the ingredients in 5-hour remain the same. The company will label 5-hour bottles with “new improved taste” until May, when it will switch to “great tasting,” she noted. While currently promoting the updated taste on its social media accounts, Living Essentials will launch a national advertising campaign promoting the revised formulation on Feb. 2.

Though very early on, consumer feedback about the new taste appears to be mostly positive, with cheerful comments penned by 5-hour users on the brand’s Facebook page. Certainly, it remains to be seen if the updated taste will attract new customers, as well as those dismayed by their first, and only, experience with the brand. Living Essentials noted in its press release that it’s “optimistic” about a boost in total customers as a result of the update. If successful, it would be one step toward a turnaround in what have been sluggish sales of the brand (based on data in measured channels) in recent years.

In the meantime, Living Essentials will be girding itself for another lawsuit accusing the company of deceptive marketing tactics. Already facing complaints from attorneys general in Oregon, Washington and Vermont, who claim that the company is misleading consumers about the efficacy of 5-hour Energy, Hawaii’s Office of Consumer Protection yesterday filed suit again Living Essentials and parent company Innovation Ventures, according to an article in the Star Advertiser. The lawsuit alleges that Living Essentials is “in violation of state unfair and deceptive practices and trade practices laws in their advertising for 5-Hour,” the Advertiser reported.