Forecourt stores have been stocking energy drinks for years. Indeed some might say the category was invented for them. Today, in many stores, energy drinks have been joined by other beverages with benefits. Think drinks with added vitamins, minerals and even protein. Ufit, for example, is this month launching three flavours of its popular high protein milkshakes into Spar Euro Garages’ sites. The launch sees the Strawberry, Chocolate and Iced Latte flavours available in-store. The 310ml variants offer 22g protein, are low in fat and contain no added sugar. The drinks are described as "a great tasting protein drink for active-ish people".

Steve Hardy, business development director at Ufit, says: "We are delighted to be bringing our range of nutritious drinks to Euro Garages’ customers. We are looking forward to building a collaborative relationship with them and are confident the Ufit range will further enhance their healthy high-protein offering."

But, of course, it’s not just drinks that come with nutritional benefits.

Marina Love-Smith, marketing director of Natural Balance Foods, says consumers increasingly expect their everyday snack products to be nutritious as well as tasty, which means that products once solely aimed at fitness and sports enthusiasts are now a must-stock for retailers.

She continues: "Mintel’s Global Food & Drink Trends 2018 report suggests that ’self-care’ is now a priority for many shoppers, which sees them looking more for food and drink products that will address perceived nutritional, physical and emotional needs. Products containing protein particularly fall into this growing sector. We know from research that 76% of shoppers eat snacks to satisfy a hunger or craving (Nielsen) so high-protein products, such as protein flapjacks and energy bars can fulfil this need."

Love-Smith says Natural Balance Foods’ Trek is helping forecourt retailers to capitalise on this shopper demand by offering a range of better-for-you, wholesome ’lifestyle energy’ products which are protein-rich, healthier, on-the-go snacks. And working in partnership with BP, a bespoke shelving unit has been developed to showcase the Trek range in high impulse areas.

According to IRI data, Trek is the number one lifestyle energy and sports nutrition brand and the 13th biggest-selling brand in the cereal bar category. And more than 720,000 households bought Trek in the year to October 8, 2017 (Kantar data) a 37% increase as shoppers looked for filling snacks with natural protein. The Trek range includes Protein Flapjacks, which Love-Smith describes as "a British classic, revolutionised". These contain 9-10g of plant-based protein and are made with gluten-free oats for slow-release energy. Last year saw Chunks added to the Trek range. Each bag contains 12g of plant-based protein and they’re also gluten, wheat and dairy free, with no added sugar or syrups.

Love-Smith advises forecourt retailers to stock Trek Protein Flapjacks in Cocoa Oat, Cocoa Coconut and Original Oat flavours; Protein Energy Chunks in Cocoa Peanut Peak and Toffee Triumph flavours; and Protein Energy Bars in the Peanut Power flavour.

Juliet Barratt, CMO and founder at sports performance and energy brand Grenade, believes that when consumers are choosing a sports nutrition product, they tend to look for a credible brand specialising in this area. "Other factors that they will focus on when making their selection include taste, texture, good nutritional values, low sugar and high protein content. The key ingredient that they focus on is protein, but this needs to come from a credible source, such as an excellent quality whey or a plant-based source. Consumers will not be satisfied and will not buy into generic protein labelling. They are becoming far more aware of what they are consuming and what they should look out for when choosing active nutrition products."

Her words are echoed by research firm Mintel which found that 64% of sports nutrition consumers always read the ingredients list before buying a new product. It also found that half of users avoid products with sugar, and three in five choose products based on their protein source. But, of course, taste is paramount. "It is not enough to just focus on nutritional values, the product needs to be tasty as well," says Barratt, adding that Grenade puts taste at the top of its list. Such taste and nutrition comes at a price, which is typically higher than say a standard flapjack or cereal bar. Says Barratt: "Our target demographic is prepared to pay a premium when they know that they are getting high-quality, credible protein sources when looking to supplement their diet, but are savvy and will not pay over the odds."

She says that when it comes to merchandising, it is vital to ensure you catch the consumer’s eye at different points within the retail setting and maximise sales through impulse buys.

Energy burst

The big news in the energy drinks sector is the major supermarkets’ ban on sales to under-16s. Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose will all, from this month, ask kids to prove they are over 16 if they want to buy one. In the forecourt arena, Frasers Retail has notices in its energy drinks chillers saying the beverages are not suitable for under-16s and asking consumers to be prepared to show proof of age.

The ban followed a call from teaching union NASUWT which was worried about the high levels of caffeine and sugar in many of these drinks and the effects on children.

Meanwhile, the big news from Red Bull is that it is expanding its sugar-free range this month with the addition of the first Red Bull Sugarfree 473ml can (available price-marked and plain), and the completion of its Red Bull Sugarfree 355ml offer with a price-marked can. In addition, the brand has revisited its Editions range and consumers can now enjoy Tropical and Orange as a 250ml can sugarfree option (price-marked and plain).

Rich Fisher, category development manager at Red Bull UK, says that at more than one-and-a-half-times bigger than the number two low-cal sports and energy SKU, Red Bull Sugarfree 250ml is currently the fifth largest low-cal drink within total soft drinks (IRI).

"Designed to expand Red Bull’s success within the sugar-free energy drinks category, the new range will offer consumers choice and remove the current taste and health barriers to trial. With over half of shoppers walking away from a purchase if there is no low-cal offering, the NPD will encourage more 18-34 year olds, who want to cut down on sugar without giving up on pick-me-ups, to drink Red Bull Sugarfree by exciting them about the new low kcal offering and encouraging them to give it a go."

Elsewhere in energy drinks, Punch seems to be the new on-trend flavour. Boost’s latest addition is sugar-free Punch Power which is a fusion of mango, passionfruit and cranberry.

And at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the Monster brand is building on the success of its Punch variant, which was the second-highest contributor to energy sector growth last year (Nielsen) with the launch of Pipeline Punch. This is described as a refreshing, tropical blend of passionfruit, pineapple and guava, and is made with 16% real fruit juice. It’s a good move as, according to Nielsen, flavoured energy drinks have grown by over £24m in Great Britain.

New 12 for 10 Boost promo

Boost Drinks’ latest promotion to support independent retailers lets them buy 12 bottles for the price of 10. The promotion, which will run through to May then again from September to November, will be available on 500ml and 1ltr Boost Energy Original price-marked SKUs. The company says products with price-marked packaging work extremely well for retail as they are one of the simplest ways of building trust between the consumer and retailer so they feel they are getting good value for money.

Protein with extra crunch

The latest product to offer consumers increased protein is crisps. New Ufit Crunchers are high protein popped crisps with each 27g bag containing 10g of protein. They are also high in fibre and contain 70% less fat than traditional crisps. They are available in three flavours: Smokehouse BBQ, Thai Sweet Chilli and Sour Cream & Onion. Rrp is £1.25.
Marketing director for Ufit distributor Lacka Foods, Terry Adams, says the Üfit range has been developed to suit the needs of busy individuals, by offering on-the-go nutritional convenience.
"Üfit products have been positioned to bridge the gap between mainstream and everyday health categories and this latest addition will allow the brand to enter the snacking category with a product to cater for the needs of those looking for healthier alternatives to traditionally unhealthy crisps."
The launch will be supported by a new social media campaign, city centre sampling and in-store media.
Adams confirms that BP will start listing the crisps in May.

Grenade’s bar in a jar

Grenade has added a fourth flavour to its ’Bar in the Jar’ Carb Killa Spread range Jaffa Quake, which joins White Chocolate Cookie, Hazel Nutter and Milk Chocolate. All are gluten-free apart from the White Chocolate Cookie.
With nearly 87% less sugar but three times the protein of your typical everyday chocolate spread, Grenade describes new Jaffa Quake Carb Killa Spread as a "spreadable, decadent protein delight", which it says can be enjoyed smothered on top of your favourite food or eaten straight from the jar. Available in 360g jars (rrp £6.99), it contains 20% whey protein, is low sugar, gluten free, flavoured with natural orange oil and suitable for vegetarians.
Previous flavours are a big hit with consumers who rave about them on the Grenade website.
The company recently added a Peanut Nutter flavour to its popular Carb Killa high-protein shakes range.
Described as ’deliciously creamy and indulgent’, it contains 24g of protein, 9.2g of carbs, is low in sugar and has just 196 calories.

Retailer view

"We stock loads of energy drinks. Our most popular are the Rockstar big cans and the purple one is our best seller. They’re really good value as they’re price-marked at £1 but on offer at ’2 for £1.70’.
"We do stock Red Bull but it only really sells to die-hard fans or when it’s on offer. We had a ’2 for £2.50’ offer on the 250ml and that went well. We don’t stock any of the cheapie energy drinks. We have protein bars but to be honest they don’t go well. I think it really depends on your location."