As customers hunkered down during 2020 lockdowns due to COVID-19, many looked to energy drinks to help them power through lockdown and pandemic fatigue.
According to IRI, the convenience store channel during calendar year 2020, ending Dec. 27, saw sales top $9.8 billion, a 2.5% increase. Leading the way in the category were Red Bull, with sales of nearly $2.2 billion, up 3.6%, and Monster, with nearly $1.2 billion in sales but a 3.8% dip. VPX topped $800 million in sales, rising by just 0.3%. Other major players included NOS, Reign Total Body Fuel and Rockstar.
In the era of COVID-19, concerns around immunity and energy are also impacting how consumers gauge their health needs, said Blaine Becker, senior director, marketing at The Hartman Group Inc. in Bellevue, Wash. Beverages with added functionality are products enhanced with added vitamins, minerals, botanicals, protein, pre or probiotics, etc., to improve health. An example would be sports/energy drinks with added Taurine.
“We as a company do very well with 5-hour Energy shots, as well as our entire energy drink category,” said Jessica Catanzaro, director of purchasing for the 43-year-old Green Valley Grocery convenience store chain based in Las Vegas. “We plan to add G-FUEL into our spring assortment. Since we cannot do wet sampling because of COVID, we run two-fors and bundle deals with water companies to increase sales.”
The target market is specific and youthful; the brand’s sugar-free, gluten-free, antioxidant- and vitamin-fortified, focus-enhancing and high-performance energy products target gamers, and has gained a reputation as the official energy drink of esports, a form of sport competition using video games.
Energy drinks with enhanced sports nutrition ingredients are among those seeing sales on the upswing, according to Scott Swiger, director of business development for the JBH Advisory Group in New York City.
“Functional beverages will continue to grow in popularity as people look to alternatives to caffeine for daily boosts,” he said. “People are much more aware of what they are putting into their bodies, and the dependency on caffeine has become a concern for more people.”
Many c-stores have decided to focus on brands that feature added vitamins, new flavors and no sugar. Some keep these brands in barrels of ice and close to the point-of-sale area.
Savvy c-stores are selling more energy drinks by marketing them to customers at the pumps to entice shoppers inside.
“If trending items are in the coolers within the store, they should be marketed at the pump to let consumers know,” Swinger said.