In the early days, energy drinks offered a sugary, cough-syrup-tasting ‘punch in the mouth’ caffeine hit. Pretty soon, many other options emerged, but the category is still growing and evolving, creating new opportunities for brands that can find its sweet spots, claims one firm hoping for a bigger slice of the action.
HYDRIVE Energy Water - which contains 30 calories per 458ml bottle and 160-195mg caffeine depending on the flavor - was ahead of its time when it launched in 2006, straddling the divide between Red Bull and VitaminWater, says Big Red SVP Marketing, Thomas Oh.
Founders were ahead of their time
But when Big Red acquired the brand - which is sweetened with sucralose and sugar - in late 2012, buyers were having a hard time working out where it fit into the energy category, he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“The founders [former Snapple Beverages CEO Mike Weinstein and former Yoo-hoo/Orangina CEO Brian O’Byrne] were ahead of their time; I'd say consumers are actually migrating to the space that HYDRIVE is in now. They launched at a time when VitaminWater was on fire and the energy category was exploding and created a hybrid with the same kick as energy drinks without the calories.
“We did a lot of research before we bought it and felt that the problem was positioning. HYDRIVE had had pockets of success over the years but it was not really making money, although energy is a need that is not going to go away. Basically, buyers were thinking, 'It's a good product, but do I sell it as an energy drink? But why isn’t it in a can? I could use the space for another energy drink and get $2.50 or $3 a bottle instead of $1.29 or $1.49.'”
In the enhanced water category, meanwhile, SoBe Lifewater and VitaminWater were “coming off peak”, Sparkling Ice was “on fire” and buyers were looking for new angles, he says.
We re-positioned it as an energy water
“So we re-positioned it as an energy water, changed the name from HYDRIVE Energy to HYDRIVE Energy Water, and put the calories clearly on the front of the pack. We also tweaked the formulas and re-vamped the packaging to appeal to men and women.”
With a new strapline (‘Energy Done Better’), HYDRIVE is now available at several leading chains including Wal-Mart, Target, Publix and H-E-B.
Each flavor is linked to a specific functional benefit - so Blue Raspberry comes with ‘Extra Power’ and contains 195mg caffeine, vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12, and yerba mate leaf extract; Triple Berry is the ‘Antioxidant Formula’ and contains 160mg caffeine plus vitamins B6, B3, B5, and B12, Guarana and Panax Ginseng root extract; while Grape Fusion is the ‘Recovery Formula’, and contains 160mg caffeine, vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12, plus aloe vera extract.
If you walk into a board meeting with a can of Monster, people will think you’ve probably had a rough night
Says Oh: “It’s a mainstream product with a light, refreshing taste that fills a definite void in the market for the health-conscious consumer looking for a caffeine boost without the chemical aftertaste and energy crash.”
While energy drinks typically conjure up images of extreme sports, twenty-year-olds engaging in high-octane clubbing or burning the midnight oil at college, the potential audience is far broader, he adds.
Indeed, as 5-Hour Energy understands better than most, middle-aged office workers are probably more in need of a pick-me-up as their energy levels start to flag mid-afternoon than their teenage kids.
“I think people are buying different products at different times, but also as they get older, they are looking or different things, and they are not buying the same products they drank at college,” says Oh.
“If you walk into a board meeting with a can of Monster, people will think you’ve probably had a rough night.”
It’s much easier to explain to buyers where this sits
So how have consumers - and retailers - responded to the new look?
Very positively, claims Oh, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after Wells Fargo released its latest ‘Beverage Buzz’ survey (click here ) which showed c-store retailers believe the energy category will continue its double-digit growth this year.
“We’re extremely excited. It’s much easier to explain to buyers where this sits. It’s in the enhanced water category.”