Energy Trends: The Market Charges On

By Sean Moloughney, Editor | January 3, 2017

Brands appeal to a broad audience with natural ingredients that provide sustained benefits.

Whether it’s for young Millennials seeking a boost at the gym, parents trying to keep up with their kids, or seniors hoping to stay active in the community, energy remains an essential component of healthy living. In fact, for people who take dietary supplements, energy is now the number two health concern they’re looking to address, with 30% of users citing this need, according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN) 2016 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.

Key Motivators
In today’s busy world, people frequently get fatigued, noted Shaheen Majeed, marketing director, Sabinsa Corp, East Windsor, NJ. “You are tired, your brain has slowed down throughout the day, or your body might be aching. In general, all of these issues are related to lack of energy. These conditions could be a sign that either you are not eating the way you should all the time, or your energy expenditure is so high that your daily diet is not adequate. A large number of consumers feel that way, and are now giving a lot of consideration to optimal health and physical performance.”

These conditions have opened up opportunities for natural energy supplements, which can help people resolve their nutritional deficiencies and maintain high energy levels for their day-to-day activities.

“Consequently, energy support is one of the most important segments of the dietary supplements market,” Mr. Majeed added, “as modern day athletes and other fitness enthusiasts are keen to benefit from such supplements in terms of improved physiological or metabolic responses that may enhance exercise performance or overall endurance.”

Younger consumers in particular are driving the market for energy products, according to Jackson Zapp, vice president of product innovation, Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (AFS) Austin, TX. “Maturing Millennials need grown-up energy. The truth is, Millennials have always been the dominant consumer in the energy category.”

He cited Mintel data from 2014 that suggested between the age of 18-34, 67% of males and 47% of females consume energy drinks and are by far the largest consumer base. “Driving factors with Millennials include building trust, telling your story, and turning them into true believers,” said Mr. Zapp. “According to SPINS, these are consumers who are true believers in the benefits of natural/organic products, make a real effort to be knowledgeable about them, and care about things like sustainability while taking pride in choosing natural/organic products.”

Consumers want effective and efficient options that meet their everyday needs, said Ramon Luna, marketing coordinator, Ecuadorian Rainforest LLC, Belleville, NJ. “Work has become more demanding, just as life has been, and they want to ensure they meet challenges with all of their focus. The need to take on all these tasks has caused the demand for natural and effective energy products to skyrocket. By 2021, it is estimated that the energy drink market alone will be worth up to $61 billion (ResearchAndMarkets, 2015). This, in turn, may also be affecting the relaxation market. According to a report by BCC Research, the global sleep aid market is poised to be worth over $76 billion by 2019.”

Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients, Bradenton, FL, said consumers’ desire to sustain an active lifestyle and to be physically fit have helped drive sales for energy products. “On any given day, in any typical gym, you will see men and women of all ages, and in various stages of physical shape—from bodybuilders to overweight individuals, teenagers to folks in their 70s.”

Sandra Gillot, CEO of Chile-based Benexia, said she believes energy will continue to be a booming category, as “consumers seek to maintain high levels of mental and physical activity, day after day. Much of this growth and innovation will be in food and beverages with ingredients such as Benexia (chia), as consumers seek to move away from eating too many carbs.”

Drinks Dominate
According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), more energy drinks were launched globally in 2015 than in any year since 2008, with the number of energy drink products launched growing 29% between 2010 and 2015.

“Energy drinks remain the controversial, yet undeniably successful, wild child of the soft drinks family,” said Alex Beckett, global food and drink analyst at Mintel. “The primary driver of global growth remains the drinks’ capacity to provide consumers with a quick and effective energy boost—something which resonates with consumers the world over. Energy drinks are benefitting from being championed by giant brands, which devote huge investment to advertising and high profile marketing initiatives to project an exciting and edgy image.”

On a natural note, Mintel research indicated that introductions bearing an organic claim have reached a record high. Some 7% of energy drinks launched globally in 2015 carried an organic claim, up from 4% in 2011. And organic innovation showed few signs of slowing down. From January to July 2016, as many as 6% of global launches have carried an organic claim.

The rise in organic launches comes as consumers show strong interest in more natural energy drinks. One in four (26%) U.S. consumers said they would be more comfortable drinking energy drinks or shots made with all-natural ingredients.

Mintel research also revealed that parents are emerging as a valuable audience for energy drinks. In the U.S., while on average 12% of consumers drink energy drinks, this rises to over one quarter (26%) of those with children aged 5 and under and 32% of those with 6 to 11 year olds.

“Often exhausted and needing to be on the go pretty much constantly, young parents are emerging as a valuable user group for energy drink brands around the world. Although they are not the traditional target audience of 18-24s, which typically feature in marketing campaigns, young parents and older Millennials in general are the primary energy drink consumers,” Mr. Beckett said.

Ingredients to Run With
Consumers are looking for natural energy, as opposed to synthetic solutions, according to Andrew Wheeler, director of marketing, FutureCeuticals, Inc., Momence, IL. “There are two distinct customer segments to serve here: stimulatory and non-stimulatory energy. On the stimulatory side, we are seeing a pronounced uptick in formulators and marketers requesting natural caffeine. Our Organic Coffeeberry coffee fruit, just launched in 2016, has already become a highly sought-after ingredient in this category, mostly because of the great backstory of whole coffee fruit and the value-added chlorogenic acids.”

On the non-stimulatory side, FutureCeuticals offers elevATP, a soluble, natural ingredient that has been shown to help the body significantly increase its own ATP production. “There are those finished product manufacturers that desire ingredients that support endogenous activity rather than exogenous ingested precursors—and that is what elevATP, and really the vast majority of FutureCeuticals’ ingredients, are designed to offer. There is great value in helping the body do what it already does, only better.”

Two published human clinical studies demonstrated elevATP led to statistically significant increases in serum levels of ATP, said Mr. Wheeler, and in one of these studies, muscle biopsy showed increased intra-muscular ATP. “In terms of the gold standard, there are two functional studies showing that elevATP can increase strength, power, and performance in resistance trained athletes.”

Speaking of ATP, Larry Kolb, president, TSI USA, Inc., Missoula, MT, noted that Adenosine Triphosphate is energy currency for human cells. “The human body contains approximately 250 grams of ATP and the daily ATP turnover is roughly the body’s weight, which highlights the importance of ATP as the body’s energy source. Numerous ingredients try to increase energy by increasing ATP stores indirectly, however, a patented form of ATP is available as PEAK ATP, allowing consumers to directly supplement ATP.”

Mr. Kolb, also noted that while caffeine is the leading ingredient in the energy market, rising concerns about its safety, excessive use and potential regulatory issues have led to an increased interest in non-stimulant caffeine substitutes. “The ‘overcaffeination’ of consumers has led to a sharp increase in relaxation ingredients such as melatonin or L-theanine, helping consumers to counteract the negative side effects of caffeine.”

Still, caffeine is the standard for efficacy and “feel,” he added. Caffeine-alternatives will need to match the benefits with regard to alertness, focus and attention. “While research has confirmed increased mental focus and acuity from the use of caffeine, stimulant-sensitive individuals should assess their tolerance before using energy products containing caffeine. Caffeine can have dose-dependent, unwanted effects contributing to a nervous or anxious feeling that can keep consumers from staying focused and even sleeping well.”

Marianne McDonagh, vice president of sales, Bioenergy Life Science, Inc., Minneapolis, MN, said that popularity for stimulant products is at an all-time low. Meanwhile, demand continues to crest for natural, scientifically proven ingredients that provide substantial increases in energy. “Bioenergy Ribose is at the forefront of this because ribose is a simple carbohydrate and the energetic infrastructure upon which all living processes depend. For consumers in any demographic, or for those looking to avoid heavy doses of B-vitamins and caffeine, it is the natural alternative to sustained energy at the cellular level.”

Globally, consumers are looking for products with natural ingredients that are highly bioavailable and carry low risk for side effects, she said. “Bioenergy Ribose is the perfect solution. D-Ribose is a naturally occurring carbohydrate in every living cell and carries essentially zero risk for all consumers.”

Organic and natural energy sources, especially organic caffeine, are occupying a majority of new business growth for AFS. “Whether it is in sports nutrition, functional supplements, or conventional beverages, consumers are seeking cleaner labels and formulators are now working with innovative ingredient manufacturers like AFS in finding ways of going natural with their energy ingredients,” said Mr. Zapp.

AFS offers two sources of organic (or natural) caffeine that are standardized to greater than 90% caffeine; one is coffee based and one is tea based. “These ingredients are highly water-soluble, clear in solution, and designed to have a more neutral flavor profile (i.e., less bitterness, astringency),” making them ideal solutions for sport mixes and RTD beverages, said Mr. Zapp.

AFS has also seen a surge of products using guayusa tea as their energy source. In fact, sales of items where guayusa was a primary ingredient are up  over 18%, according to 2016 data from SPINS. “Guayusa is an Amazonian super-leaf that contains a synergistic punch of caffeine and other polyphenols (similar to those found in coffee and dark chocolate),” said Mr. Zapp. “Unlike a standard green or black tea, guayusa is sweet, not bitter in taste, providing a unique opportunity for RTD beverages and drink mixes.”

Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed said the performance ingredient market appears to be an attractive category, as several clinically validated ingredients, such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and beetroot extract, are making an impact. “We think it’s possible that performance ingredients could surpass protein-based products, which are still the most sought-after ingredients in the energy segment.”

“More companies are now focusing on evidence-based natural energy drinks that are healthier versions of high-sugar, chemical-based, carbonated drinks marketed to enhance performance and endurance,” he added.

Sabinsa’s Sabeet, a standardized red beetroot extract containing not less than 2% inorganic nitrate, is one ingredient in the energy market that is gaining popularity because of clinically shown potential to increase endurance and general health and wellness, according to the company.

For example, a randomized, crossover study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2011), evaluated the role of dietary nitrate supplementation in enhancing performance during simulated competition, such as cycling. During the study, cyclists were asked to consume 500 ml of beetroot juice (BR; 6.2 mmol of nitrate) or 500 ml of placebo (PL), 2.5 hours before the completion of 4 and 16.1 km cycling time trials. Results indicated that BR significantly increased the mean power output during the 4 km and 16.1 km cycling time trial. It was concluded that acute dietary nitrate supplementation with beetroot juice may enhance performance during simulated competition.

Coconut water is also a rich source of proteins, amino acids, sugars, vitamins, minerals, growth hormones and other essential micronutrients. It is considered a natural isotonic with an ideal electrolytic balance.

Sabinsa’s Cococin is a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), novel preparation that contains high potency micronutrients from liquid endosperm of green tender coconut transformed into a freeze-dried, free-flowing powder.

Ecuadorian’s Mr. Luna said his company has been keeping a close eye on rhodiola, which started gaining notoriety in 2014 when it became one of the best-selling herbs for the year, according to a report by HerbalGram. “Since then it has been one of our most popular ingredients. One study suggests it may be useful against mental fatigue and promoting energy, although further testing is needed (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012).”

HP Ingredients’ Ms. Eng said a key challenge for product developers is not to overpromise and under-deliver. “Formulate thoughtfully by reviewing the science of each ingredient you are considering. There are different ways to encourage the body to feel and/or produce its own energy. How do you as a brand want to accomplish this?”

Research indicates the company’s LJ100 Tongkat Ali enhances energy by encouraging the body’s own testosterone production. “When testosterone production is at healthy levels, the individual gains strength and when working with heavier weights; this in and of itself enhances overall energy. Specifically, LJ100 E. Tongkat Ali root is concentrated into a 100:1 water extract standardized to 40% glycosaponins, and greater than 22% eurypeptides.”

A placebo-controlled endurance study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sport Medicine (2006) looked at how 100 mg LJ100 affected 30 men recruited to engage in a 24-hour mountain biking event. The volunteers completed four approximately 15-mile laps (total 60 miles) and provided eight saliva samples during the test period. The LJ100 group took the supplement 30 minutes prior to endurance exercise. At the end of the study, cortisol levels were 32.3% lower in the LJ100 group compared to placebo, and testosterone levels were 16.4% higher in the LJ100 group compared to placebo. The authors concluded that LJ100, through its apparent ability to maintain low normal levels of cortisol and high normal levels of testosterone, improved anabolic state during intense endurance workouts.

Forward Focus
In order to be successful in the evolving energy market, companies should invest in research and development, and choose their business partners wisely, said Bioenergy’s Ms. McDonagh.”The market share for nutraceuticals is expanding rapidly, and therefore the demand for natural alternatives in the energy sector will expand proportionally, she added.

Consumers have become cautious regarding the safety of energy products, said Ecuadorian’s Mr. Luna. Gaining their trust may be the biggest hurdle companies face. Honest marketing and use of natural, recognizable ingredients will go a long way toward earning it, he added.

TSI’s Mr. Kolb expected the energy market will evolve through innovation, providing safe and highly effective products.

The energy segment was once synonymous with “sports nutrition,” as it mainly targeted bodybuilders, sports professionals and marathon runners, according to Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed. However, today, a wider range of consumers are focusing on the importance of being fit and healthy. “This segment has evolved in recent years to include a more diverse consumer base because of increased awareness on the part of consumers about the benefits of dietary supplementation in supporting health with increased energy, stamina and recovery time.”

Moving forward, credibility will be a critical issue, according to AFS’ Mr. Zapp. Transparency throughout the supply chain can help build trust with consumers. “Telling the story of how your ingredients get to the consumer is so important. Unfortunately, too often ingredients are sourced from the open market in ways that are often unfair to the environment and local farmers. For Applied Food Sciences, we try to embody a true sense of transparency to demonstrate how our ingredients came from farm to label. Consumers can then see for themselves the partnerships with farmers, socially responsible practices, and environmentally sustainable sourcing. We try to make it easier for manufacturers to tell this story and show their customers what’s behind their product.”