In a note released today ahead of Monster Energy's Q2 2014 results announcement on August 7, Wells Fargo Securities identifies a 'low caffeine' space - also occupied by Coca-Cola Classic and regular Mountain Dew - where it feels Monster can tap the afternoon/evening as well as morning consumption occasion.
On July 24 the brand applied to the US Patent & Trademark office to trademark the term 'Ultra Sunrise', and the application (US serial number 86343141) was today assigned to an examiner for consideration.
What might this mean? Well, Wells Fargo says its retail contacts believe that Monster has big plans to innovate around its growth Ultra platform in H2 2014 and FY 2015 to help re-accelerate growth.
"We believe 'Ultra Sunrise' will likely target the morning day part, competing directly with PepsiCo's very successful Mountain Dew Kickstart brand, which generated approximately $150m in sales in the first year."
What might Ultra Sunrise look, or rather taste, like?
What might Sunrise look like? We asked Mintel beverage analyst Alex Beckett if he saw Monster going for the same type of fruity flavors as Kickstart (orangeade, black cherry and limeade) backed by a bit of juice for 'natural' positioning, the same electrolyte fortification and a little less caffeine?
Or did he think Monster proposition needed to present a more distinct offering?
"Juice flavours might be an obvious breakfast option considering the health image a dose of fruit juice can convey," Beckett said.
Coffee could present a more conventional Sunrise pick-me-up flavour, and differentiate it from Kickstart, although Monster already has a whole host of these under its popular Java range."
Increasing Monster's household penetration
One retailer even suggested to Wells Fargo that Monster was moving towards a Monster CSD aimed at Mountain Dew, while another predicted that if the drink tasted as good as Dew or Dew Kickstart, then it would appeal to a younger demographic and increase Monster's household penetration.
"Therefore, if Monster is able to continue its penetration into the CSD category, with Ultra extensions and lower-caffeine products that are closer to traditional CSDs, Monster sales growth should re-accelerate to double digits, as even just 1% share of the CSD category would translate into nearly $700m of incremental sales."
Wells Fargo says its C-store sources also believe that Monster could its 'core Green' Monster Energy drink into the 'sunset' segment, with a low or no-caffeine ('unleaded') offering that still features Monster's proprietary energy blend (including taurine, glucuronolactone and guarana).
"We believe these products will likely be rolled-out to test markets in the next 1-2 quarters this year, and launched nationally in either Q4 2014 or H1 2015," Wells Fargo writes.
Monster's portfolio gap: Low or no-caffeine core lines
The brokerage believes that that a low or no-caffeine core- Monster product would fill a large portfolio gap and (1) increase trial by non-energy consumers (3) expand consumption into the afternoon/evening (3) accelerate share gains from CSDs (4) gain Monster shelf space (5) increase household penetration (6) limit cannibalization of existing lines.
Monster CEO Rodney Sacks said in August 2013 that Monster Energy Ultra Zero owes its enormous US success to an "easy-to-drink", soft-drink style flavor that's lighter and less filling than standard Monster Energy.
Curiously, Monster Assault was one of the firm's first launches in the US, where it was described as a cherry cola take on Monster Energy pitched at Coke or Pepsi drinkers with more of a soft drink taste profile.
Recently, the line was launched in the EMEA - the UK last month after trials in Europe - where it is described as a "blend of refreshing soda and Monster's trademark energy", again showing, clearly, the brand's ambitions in the wider soda space.
BeverageDaily.com contacted Monster Energy to seek confirmation or denial of the Ultra Sunrise launch but has not received a response.
(Kickstart picture: Mike Mozart/Flickr)