Sales of sports and energy drinks in the UK are racing towards the £1bn mark according to Mintel’s new Sports and Energy Drinks UK 2009 report. This reveals that sales increased by 51% between 2004 and 2008. And last year sales grew by 10%, to reach £941m.

Volume sales last year were also impressive up 10% on 2007 figures, to 484 million litres. And analysts predict that volume will hit 525 millions litres this year and hit the magic £1bn sales mark. But that’s not all, because over the next five years, Mintel estimates that sales will continue to grow to reach £1.5bn, with 757 million litres expected to be drunk.

Within the sports and energy drinks market it is energy drinks that are king, worth £716m versus sports drinks’ £225m.

Jonny Forsyth, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, says: "Unlike other markets such as smoothies, which were seeing impressive growth until the recession arrived, sports and energy drinks have continued to grow their value. Cash-squeezed consumers are viewing these products as value for money rather than a luxury, which stands in contrast to smoothies and bottled water, both of which have suddenly seen growth reverse."

Despite the growth in sales, still only a third of the population actually consumes sports and energy drinks. The Mintel report says "there has been distinct failure to grow penetration... instead the market has succeeded by increasing frequency of drinking among young male converts in particular".

"The challenge for the industry going forward is to grow its user base by successfully targeting females, 35 to 54-year-olds and workers," says Forsyth. "This means increasingly stealing share from carbonates and bottled water in particular. The problem is that energy drinks appeal most to the physically active and men aged between 15 and 34 do more exercise than anyone else. A more mainstream opportunity lies in targeting mental rather than physical energy."

He says that as many as 27 million of us work compared to the 12 million of the population who are actively involved in sports. Many of these people are juggling multiple pressures such as children, demanding jobs, familes, friend and hobbies. The recession has also added to their stress and in some cases increased the number of hours that they are working. An energy drink that specifically targeted them could be just what they need.