Lose the sugar, win the sales

Some of the most innovative product and marketing work in functional drinks and in energy and sports drinks has been carried out by independent brands. What are some of the leading independents launching now and how do they see the current scene?

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Boost’s sales director, Al Gunn, sees sugar-free as a growth area for energy drinks. The 500ml PET pack has fewer than 10 calories in the liquid. The products are not available in multiples.

LUSH sugar-free flavours are the key to Boost’s success, according to sales director Al Gunn.

He says that moving-annual-total figures show Boost’s sugar-free sales growing at 32%, as several different types of consumer try to eat and drink less sugar.
“To date, barriers to further growth have been calories and taste,” he said. “As a result, Boost has invested considerable time and money developing Sugar Free Pink Lemonade. This drink has a fresh, fruity taste and the re-sealable PET bottled drink has just under 10 calories. The 250ml can has just five calories in the 250ml.”
Alongside Sugar Free Pink Lemonade, Boost has two other new flavours, also exclusively for the independent sector. Citrus Zing and Exotic Fruits are available in 500ml PET bottles at RRP 79p and 250ml cans at 49p.
Gunn said: “Following extensive research, we are confident that our three new flavours will be very popular with consumers, especially given the fantastic prices and the fact that we have such a great tasting sugar-free offer.
“These products will not be available in supermarkets as Boost remains committed to being a champion of the independents.”
• Emerge also sees c-stores as a crucial marketplace. Calli O’Brien, brand manager, said: “Our consumer research shows customers buy energy drinks for instant, on-the-go consumption before work and throughout the day. This buying behaviour would suggest that functional energy is very much an impulse purchase and independent and symbol stores are well-placed to be serving this market.

‘Look for well-supported brands with promotions or PMPs to drive impulse sales’

“Small pack sizes tend to work well in c-stores, for example the flagship 250ml regular Emerge can. Our latest product, Emerge Zero, which launched earlier this year and offers full flavour with no sugar, is also available in this format. Take-home packs do work well in c-stores, albeit at a smaller size to those available in supermarkets, which is why we recently launched 4x250ml multipacks.”
The brand has not forgotten the health-conscious consumer, with the development of Emerge Zero Sugar. This, O’Brien said: “conveys the lifestyle image that our consumers are seeking, without any sugar.”
And while sports drinks remain static, O’Brien tips functional water drinks as a segment to watch. “Fortified waters are still seeing huge growth within the market. This is something I can see functional energy moving towards in the coming year or so.”
The brand has extended the deadline for entries to its Emerge Space Programme, following what it calls “unprecedented levels of consumer engagement with the campaign”.
Nominations can now be made until 31 July. On-pack promotion of the campaign has also been extended.
Vimto Soft Drinks marketing manager, Emma Hunt, thinks that lifestyle changes are key to understanding the energy drinks market.
“Consumers are always on the lookout for the next big thing within the category and energy drinks are increasingly becoming part of their everyday lives. More drinking occasions for energy and sports drinks are emerging all the time and it is important that independent retailers are on the front foot to capitalise on the opportunities this presents.
“There has also been a significant rise in 18-34 year olds participating in extreme sports, more than any other group of outdoor sports. Therefore, there has been a rise in demand for sports drinks from this audience.”

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The Extreme range is produced under licence by Vimto Soft Drinks. Emerge sees c-stores as crucial for impulse-purchase products such as energy drinks.

Vimto Soft Drinks was awarded the licence to produce sports and energy drinks under the Extreme brand a year ago. Describing itself as “an established and influential brand with a global presence,” Extreme has a TV channel, called Extreme Sports, which it claims reaches 26.1m consumers each month.
“Research has found 66% of the new drink’s target audience currently watch the TV channel,” said Hunt.
“Extreme sports have evolved into an alternative lifestyle fed by sports, music, art and fashion.
“Extreme is the first range of functional drinks that meets the needs of this entire lifestyle and the millions of people who aspire to lead this kind of exciting lifestyle.
“The potential market for the range is huge, given an estimated 140m people in the 15–34 age group participate in the top four sports of surf, ski, skate, and snowboarding in Europe alone.”
Extreme Energy and Extreme Sport, available as 500ml RTDs, were launched in the convenience channel in July 2013, and Vimto Soft Drinks says Nielsen has measured sales growth of 5% on Extreme over the intervening year.
This summer Extreme is sponsoring one of the biggest indoor skateparks in the UK, Ramp1 Skatepark Warrington, which has seven ramp areas and averages close to 3,000 visitors a week.
Product sampling will also take place at a number of key extreme sporting events and festivals through the year.