Novartis Puts NoDoz Into Energy Shot Game

Long before Red Bull, Monster and 5-Hour Energy, there was NoDoz, one of the first and best known over-the-counter caffeine supplements sold in the U.S. The small, white tablets have long been a favorite of bleary-eyed college students and midnight-shift factory workers, many of whom preferred NoDoz over other caffeine sources like coffee and soda.

In recent years, however, energy drinks and shots have become a booming, multi-billion dollar category, and, in the process, made NoDoz seem like a relic of previous generations. That may change. After years of sitting on the sidelines, NoDoz has finally gotten into the game with the recent launch of NoDoz Energy Shots. Brought to market by pharmaceutical conglomerate Novartis, which owns the NoDoz brand, the products are currently sold exclusively at Walmart.

In an e-mail to BevNET, Novartis said that it “made the strategic decision to launch NoDoz Energy Shots to provide consumers with an alternative when it comes to a caffeine source” and described the product as a “fast-acting, liquid caffeine supplement that is intended for adults.” Citing “competitive reasons,” Novartis declined to share information about how long the product had been in development before its launch, which appears to have been sometime in early September.

Formulated with 115 mg of caffeine, Novartis makes the claim that one serving of the product “contains about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.” The energy shots are artificially flavored, sweetened with sucralose and come in two flavors — Berry and Orange — each packaged in 1.89 oz. bottles.

Novartis stated that “Walmart is the exclusive retail partner of NoDoz Energy Shots in 2013,” but did not specify the length of its arrangement with the mass retailer, only noting that consumers can check the brand’s website “for updated retailer availability.” Walmart sells a 2-pack of the shots for $4.68 and $11.88 for a 6-pack.

In marketing the line as one that comes “from a safe & trusted brand for 50 years,” it’s clear that Novartis is banking on the name recognition of NoDoz as a significant point of differentiation between its product and those of competing companies. Nevertheless, it will likely be an uphill battle for Novartis within a category dominated by 5-Hour Energy. 5-Hour owns more than 90 percent of the $1.25 billion category, dwarfing its competitors, none of which has more than 1.4 percent of the market.