The number of cans of Red Bull you sold in your forecourt store last year contributed to the brand selling 6.79 billion cans worldwide. It’s a staggering figure that’s 7.7% up on 2017 sales.

In the UK, according to IRI data, Red Bull is growing 8.4% in value and 12% in volume, performing well across all channels but in particular the take-home (+8% value) and symbol (+7% value) channels.

Mark Bell, strategy and planning manager at Red Bull UK, says: "As the number-one single-serve soft drink, worth £137.5m and growing by 3%, Red Bull Energy 250ml is a must-stock for retailers planning their adult energy drinks offering. Alongside Energy (full sugar), customers are demanding a sugar-free alternative. Growing at 16.5% to £41.9m, Red Bull Sugarfree 250ml is the number-one low-kcal sports and energy drink in the UK (IRI). Red Bull Energy is also available in 355ml and 473ml cans, with 355ml growing value at 27.6% and 473ml at 5.4%, completing the brand’s Original and Sugarfree offering, and should form part of a retailer’s range."

The taste of energy drinks has often been a barrier to purchase but Red Bull has countered this with the launch of Editions flavours. The latest is new Red Bull Coconut Berry Edition, which offers consumers the energy boost of Red Bull with the taste of coconut. The flavour has already proved a success in other European markets, so much so that it moved from a limited edition to part of the permanent range. Packaged in a premium white can, Coconut Berry is available in both 250ml Energy (full sugar) and Sugarfree variants.

Says Bell: "The extension of the Red Bull Sugarfree range is designed to drive value within the soft drinks category, with the range removing the current taste and health barriers to trial. With over half of shoppers walking away from a purchase if there is no low-kcal 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."

Riding high

Another energy drink brand that’s riding high is Monster, which achieved more than £200m sales in Great Britain last year for the first time, and became the eighth largest soft drinks brand in the land (Nielsen data).

Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at brand owner Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says this milestone was achieved by growth within the core range, engaging loyal fans through exciting promotions with complementary brands, and investing in NPD from innovation in flavours to tapping into demand for more zero and lower-sugar options.

"We have also continued to activate partnerships with complementary brands that appeal to gaming and motorsports fans, both core audiences for Monster. The brand has an on-going partnership with Formula One star Lewis Hamilton, which has been successful in exciting our core fans, while bringing new consumers into the brand. Our recent on-pack partnership with Call of Duty Black Ops III has also contributed to growth by driving purchasing frequencies."

Burgess says one of the biggest ’game changers’ for the Monster brand was the arrival of the zero sugar Monster Ultra range in 2016, which is currently worth £50m. "The range continues to drive growth by bringing new consumers into the category. It has grown £15.8m in the past year and we introduced our Ultra Violet variant, which is currently the second best-performing variant in the five-strong range."

With taste a key factor when buying an energy drink, CCE has responded with plenty of new flavour launches. Its latest flavour is Monster Energy Ultra Blue a sparkling, citrus and berry, low-calorie energy drink.

maximising sales

"The new variant will help retailers to maximise on the demand for low-calorie, flavoured energy drinks, which are in 59% value growth and the fastest-growing segment in energy. Monster Energy is one of the driving forces behind this growth, contributing 88.1% value sales to the flavoured low-calorie energy segment.

"Like the entire Monster Ultra range, Monster Energy Ultra Blue is Soft Drinks Tax exempt and will appeal to people looking for a great-tasting energy boost without the calories. We’re confident that the new variant delivers on taste which is the main factor for those buying energy drinks, and will help attract new consumers to energy as well as appealing to our engaged core fan base."

Another brand with a strong fan base is Carabao. The energy drink was the brainchild of rock star Aed Carabao, who is a legend in his native Thailand. When the drink was launched in 2002, Caraboa’s huge fan base across the country helped drive high brand awareness and engagement.

Carabao Energy Drink CMO, John Luck, takes up the story: "Naturally, different markets throw up different challenges, and our launch in the UK in 2016 therefore had to be tailored.

"The UK energy drinks sector is dominated by long-established brands that have invested in building awareness among their key audiences for many years. Our positioning is totally unique compared with the competition. We offer exclusively low or no-sugar products that taste great offering a product that’s just as tasty as any fruity soft drink."

Carabao Energy Drinks come in Green Apple, Mandarin Orange, Original, Green Apple Sugar Free and Original Sugar Free flavours. Luck says they all contain at least 60% less sugar than major energy drinks rivals such as Red Bull, Monster and Relentless, with several sugar-free options too.

Amazingly fruity

"Our competitive advantage of amazing fruity flavours and lower sugar content is key there are no brands out there like us and that’s why we’re the fastest-growing Top 10 energy drink in the market today. Our research shows that an impressive two in three (66%) prefer the taste of Carabao Green Apple over Red Bull Original, so now is the time to stock Carabao and cash in on the brand growth."

Luck says Carabao is all about speaking to a broader, more inclusive consumer audience rather than the thrill-seeking young men typically targeted by traditional energy drinks.

The brand has focused on football but Luck says it’s a sport that’s popular among men and women of all ages, with over 27 million fans (one third of whom are female), plus women’s football is the fastest-growing sport in the UK. "That’s why we invest heavily in the sport," he says, "from Chelsea FC and Chelsea Women to Reading FC, Reading Women and the Carabao Cup, where our partnership with the English Football League enables us to engage directly with fans of all 92 football clubs in the UK."

Since its launch in the UK, Caraboa has invested more than £50m in marketing the drinks with initiatives such as The Bonkers Drink For Bonkers Lives TV campaign and Mr Carabao’s £1M Giveaway.

The brand’s two best-selling varieties are low-sugar Carabao Green Apple and Carabao Mandarin Orange which are therefore must-stock flavours for forecourts.

"We have a long list of new flavours we’re planning to bring to the UK in due course, with our latest fruity flavour being debuted this August," says Luck.

"In addition to that, we will continue to invest heavily in sampling. Our products taste great surprisingly so to most people who assume all energy drinks taste sickly sweet and syrupy. This means that our trial- to-repeat conversion rate is high. The more we sample, the more we and our customers sell and it’s an activity that has served us incredibly well over the past three years since our launch in the UK."

Meanwhile, Lucozade continues to focus on zero sugar drinks for growth: "Zero-sugar drinks are now undoubtedly a must-stock and the Lucozade Energy Zero range is fundamental to every forecourt retailer’s range given the zero-calorie drinks Orange, Original and Pink Lemonade are in a combined 7% year-on-year growth and 20% growth in the latest few months," explains Matt Gouldsmith, channel director wholesale at Lucozade Ribena Suntory.

blast off

Flavours are vital to the brand too and the latest addition is Apple Blast. The Apple flavour first launched last summer as part of the brand’s partnership with the Lara Croft franchise, when Lucozade became ’Larazade’ to mark the release of the Shadow of the Tomb Raider game.

The Apple flavour proved an instant hit and quickly became Lucozade Energy’s third most popular flavour in the independent and symbols channel, after core Orange and Original variants. Now Apple Blast is back as a permanent addition to the brand’s line-up.

Amie Farrell, senior brand manager for Lucozade Energy, says: "We know this incredibly popular drink will continue to drive sales for our independent retail customers in 2019, both incrementally and from existing drinkers trying out a new flavour."

After only a few months on shelves, Lucozade Energy Apple has driven over £2m in sales, making it the biggest launch for the brand in three years.

While energy drinks is a category where the products still tend to sell themselves, there is definitely a role for retailers to play in ensuring they have the brands and varieties their customers want.

Retailer view Neil Brodlie, Store manager, Spar Certas Forfar

"We dedicate 4m of space to energy drinks and stock Red Bull, Rockstar, Lucozade and Monster all the big ones.
"Rockstar is our best seller because it comes price-marked at 99p and people also like the unusual flavours like Tropical Guava because they are that little bit different.
"Standard cans of Red Bull retail at £1.69 but we do have them on offer at ’2 for £2.90.
"We typically have Lucozade on offer every three to six weeks at ’2 for £2’ and sometimes the larger bottles of Lucozade are priced at £1. Mostly people are loyal to their favourite brand but when there’s a good offer on like the Lucozade big bottles, they’ll buy them instead.
"We also stock the USN and Ufit protein drinks and they sell well to the more health- conscious people. But we don’t sell much in the way of sugar-free energy drinks people here want the full sugar ones.
"We don’t tend to have a problem with under-16s trying to buy them because we are not near a school.
"That said, we did have a parent come in last week and complain that we wouldn’t sell their son an energy drink, so perhaps some parents need educating!"

new products

Virtue Sparkling Energy Water contains natural energy from guarana, yerba mate and ginseng to deliver the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. The Berries and Lemon & Lime drinks contain zero sugar, zero calories, no sweeteners and nothing articifial.
Blood Orange & Mandarin is the latest flavour to join the Upbeat protein water range. The launch is being supported by a £1m investment plan.
The UFIT range has been extended to include two plant-powered protein drinks. Each 310ml drink contains 15g of protein. There are two flavours: Chocolate Orange and Caramel Mocha.
Radnor Plus Energy has a new formulation so it now contains zero sugar but has added B vitamins. The 500ml bottles contain just five calories but deliver 70ml of natural caffeine per serving. There are two flavours: Lemon & Lime and Cranberry & Raspberry.
Blockhead energy and vitamin gum is now available at more than 2,800 retail outlets thanks to recent partnerships with MFG, Booker and Costcutter. Rrp is £1.20 for a five-piece pack.
More than 3.9 million cans of Rockstar Start have been sold since the product’s launch last year. The drink is aimed at consumers seeking a morning boost of energy.

No age ban on energy drinks

Last year, much was made of the fact that too many youngsters drink too many energy drinks. Many retailers brought in their own bans on selling energy drinks to under-16s with notices displayed across soft drinks chillers. However, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee launched an inquiry and has concluded that there is insufficient evidence for a blanket age restriction on the products.
In its report, the Committee stated: "On balance, we conclude that the current scientific evidence alone is not sufficient to justify a measure as prohibitive as a statutory ban on the sale of energy drinks to children. Single portions are within the European Food Safety Authority’s suggested limit for caffeine intake by children."
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "Over half of c-stores are not selling energy drinks to under 16s. Some have variations of that policy, so it might be that they don’t sell to people in school uniform; it might be not to sell in the morning; it might be not to sell more than one can. We welcome the findings of the Committee’s report, and encourage retailers to engage with their local communities where concerns about the sale of energy drinks arise."
ACS Assured Advice on Age Restricted Sales, referenced in the Inquiry’s report, contains the following guidance on high caffeine energy drinks: ’There is no legal prohibition on energy drinks. However, you should be aware that all major UK manufacturers advise that these products are not suitable for children, which they define as under 16 years old. You may decide to impose a restricted sale policy on your own initiative’.