‘From non-existent to fastest growing energy drink in the US’, mapping the meteoric rise of ZOA Energy

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: ZOA Energy
Photo Credit: ZOA Energy

Related tags Energy drinks ZOA Molson coors

Launched less than a year ago by a mix of entrepreneurs, investors, fitness industry veterans, and celebrity Dwayne Johnson, ZOA Energy claims it has quickly become the fastest-growing energy drink and #2 brand in the healthy energy drinks category (per IRI data).

“It has only been one year since we launched ZOA Energy, and the consumer and retailer reception has been fantastic. Clearly, both were looking for a healthy, positive energy drink, and that’s what ZOA delivers,”​ ZOA Energy CEO Michael Pengue told FoodNavigator-USA.

“ZOA will be in well over 100,000 retail locations by the end of the year, with new accounts coming on almost daily. Although we are just starting out, our first-year sales are equal to what some of our successful competitors did multiple years down the road.”

ZOA has been a key factor of growth for Molson Coors -- who is the exclusive distribution partner for the brand -- as it made a strong play into the non-alcoholic segment with its ‘Beyond Beer’ portfolio, which together with coffee brand La Colombe and CBD beverage brand Veryvell brought in $800m in revenue for 2021, well beyond its original $1bn projection for 2023.

Speaking on the company’s Q4 2021 earnings call last week, CEO Galvin Hattersley said, “ZOA has already proven to be a success with a lot of opportunities still ahead as we continue to expand distribution. In less than 10 months, it has gone from non-existent to the fastest growing energy drink in the US.”

‘This amazing category continues to evolve’

While the energy drink category has no shortage of new entrants, ZOA ‘clean’ energy formula is appealing to a new set of consumers who may have avoided energy drinks in the past and are now open to trying a product such as ZOA that contains 160mg of caffeine derived from green tea, and other on-trend ingredients including turmeric, camu camu, and acerola.  

"This amazing category continues to evolve, and that evolution is bringing in more and more new consumers which are driving the growth. This isn’t a market share stealing game, ZOA Energy is growing the category by bringing in new consumers. ZOA’s healthy great tasting proposition is opening the door to consumers that might have been sitting on the sidelines thinking energy drinks were unhealthy,​” said Pengue.

“Once they taste ZOA and see what is in it, they are hooked.”

Play into supplements space

Now the emerging energy drink brand is entering a new but not too distant category of pre-workout supplements with its ZOA+ launch which the company claims offers extended energy for high-performance through a specific formula developed by ZOA chief health officer and competitive strength and conditioning specialist Dave Rienzi.

Referred to as 'Dave’s nitric oxide support’ formula, each can of ZOA+ contains several substances known to support workout performance including 200mg of ‘natural’ caffeine (from green coffee extract), 3,000mg of L-Citrulline, 1,250mg of Betaine Anyhdrous (a substance that occurs naturally in the body and linked to improved athletic performance), electrolytes & sodium, vitamins C&D, and antioxidant blend of green tea, white, apple, and grapeseed extracts).

The new product line also touts ‘focus-promoting’ B Vitamins, folate, and ginkgo biloba in its formulation.

“ZOA+ is an innovative, healthy, badass pre-workout energy supplement. As our consumers will experience, we went to great lengths to deliver a dynamite formulation,” ​said Dwayne Johnson. “Between ZOA+ and ZOA, you have one hell of a Cadillac combo of healthy energy products to support all of your daily fitness and life goals.”

The blend can take a workout to the “next level,”​ said Reinzi, who is also a competitive body builder.

Weekend warriors

While ZOA Energy is targeting more of a weekend warrior consumer who wants “something other than coffee to beat a slump, needs a healthy boost to get through afternoon work meetings or their child’s soccer practice,” ​ZOA+ is meant for a more intense athlete, noted Pengue.

“ZOA+ is perfect for health-conscious consumers with active lifestyles, the individuals that want to push their workouts to a higher level. I’m talking about avid runners, weightlifters, mountain bikers, etc.​,” he said.

Launching exclusively at GNC and on Amazon, ZOA+ is available in three flavors, Mandarin Orange Grapefruit, Pineapple Passion Fruit and Blackberry Açaí for $39.99 for a 12-pack.

Driving trial and awareness

To support its meteoric growth over the last 10 months, ZOA has expanded many areas of the business, especially in supply chain and sales but the brand’s founding members -- Dany Garcia, Dave Rienzi, John Shulman, and Dwayne Johnson – are still deeply involved in the day-to-day business, noted Pengue.

“Their passion, creativity, and how they think and approach the business is something so rare today. They are an amazing team,” ​he said.

 The team’s biggest focus for the rest of 2022 is simple, said Pengue, and that is to drive trial and awareness for ZOA and its growing portfolio.

“Our new and existing ZOA Zero Flavors are doing fantastic. Our great taste and efficacy of our formula have driven incredible consumer repeat. So, our focus is simply to fill out our distribution network and drive more trial of ZOA,”​ added Pengue. 

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