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Testing the market need for product innovation – An Energy Drink Story

Author: ResearchFox

Frequency of purchase is one of the obvious ways to find out consumer attitude towards your energy drink. But have you stopped to think of what kind of energy drinks appeal to consumers generally? Is it an organic, inorganic or caffeinated drink that manages to keep the taste- buds of your consumers hooked? The refreshing thing about the energy drinks market is that, while consumers are open to diversity in flavors, they prefer to experiment within one brand. This trait of consumption involving both brand loyalty and keenness to experiment has several underlying reasons. Younger consumers between the age of 18 and 20 prefer taste quality in a product with enough hydration level as a top attribute. They want a drink that can quickly quench their thirsts after a heavy workout. However, the priorities of are quite different in the age group of mid-twenties and thirties, who prefer energy drinks to combat fatigue and feel mentally and physically stimulated, owing to a hectic lifestyle and work demands. 

One common thread that connects both these consumers is their unyielding loyalty towards a particular brand. Energy drink consumers who start with a brand are unlikely to make the switch due to addiction in tastes and health reasons. While health-conscious consumers choose a brand with natural and organic ingredients, dieters prefer drinks with low sugar content. Hence, while the segment has a promising market for fresh entrants, existing big players have the leverage to monopolize it by improving their product line.

For instance, Red Bull happens to be the single largest player in the energy drinks segment. Now it has amplified its value by appealing to other categories of consumers with the introduction of Red Bull Total Zero. Red Bull understood the heavy criticism that was coming its way from nutritionists for its highly sugar laden content. It also felt the threat of competitors trying to lure a category of its health-conscious customers by going sugar-free. Hence, it introduced a new line of products that were totally devoid of sugar.

Product innovation is one of the best answers you can give for any negative criticism by your consumers. You can cash in on the market need and expectation of the consumers, to stay relevant and retain brand loyalty. Most consumers rank Taste quality, Source of energy potential, Brand confidence, Price and functional qualities, in that very order, while they buy an energy drink. Subsidiaries of a brand can then represent each of these attributes in its variants. Below are a few nuggets of information on consumer buying patterns in the energy drinks industry:

  • As many as 25% of the consumers frequented to energy drinks several times a year, followed by several times a month.
  • This periodic interest in the buying patterns suggests that they have been conducted mostly on an impulse, which explains as to why energy drinks sell better in restaurants, bars and dining places than in retail and supermarket stores.
  • Only about 9% of the consumers prefer energy drinks on a daily basis and these principally are dominated by men and secondary school adolescents.
  • However, there are many reasons for new entrants to cheer as well, because as many as 15% of first-time consumers try an energy drink out of sheer curiosity before they settle for a brand that stimulates them and has an appealing taste.

One of the major threats to energy drinks are cheaper substitutes like tea or coffee. This is because of low awareness and a growing negative publicity generated by the media about energy drinks. This makes the consumer to be brand and health conscious if they happen to substitute energy drink over other beverages and fresh juices. The best way to tackle this would be to offer a flavor of tea or coffee in your energy drinks that can attract curiosity. Or pump in a shot of energy to the regular cappuccino or espresso like Starbucks. Whichever way you prefer to innovate, always remember to rope in a regulatory affairs board that assesses the quantity and quality of ingredients used. 

What must a fresh entrant do in this industry to be successful? Penetration pricing strategies and product innovation can make new entrants in the industry gain a massive foothold. Leading players like Red Bull and Monster energy have positioned themselves as a premium product by differing from the use of Caffeine to Taurine and sponsoring premium sporting events like Formula One, MotoCross, and Mountain Biking Events. As a fresh entrant, you can challenge their way of production, operations or marketing to create an impact. 

For instance, Runa, an energy drink maker, challenges the notion of multiple ingredients energy drink that needs to be formulated in a lab. It emerges as a natural alternative capable of giving the much craved for caffeine rush with only the Amazonian holly leaves. By doing so, it has created effective market linkages between farmers and factories, boosting the economy for them as well. Its core consumers are those who crave for caffeine rush but nevertheless fear what they put in their bodies as well. Similarly, Better Drinks Co. and Phoenix Drinks doubled their share of profits in the year 2017 with their sugar-free beverages.

What is an interesting observation when it comes to product differentiation and innovation is that fresh entrants that followed the supply chain formula and mimicking the ingredients of leading players made huge losses in investments. Indian brands like Cloud Nine and XXX have suddenly become low-key after advertising heavily across media and even associating with certain IPL teams. The key success factor of Indian energy drinks brand, Tzinga by Hector Beverages, as defined by it co-founder, Suhas Misra, is because of its functional value rather than an aspirational value. The company prefers to go the economy route by selling its brand for Rs. 25 a pack. 

Learning about what type of energy drink attracts consumers universally can make you assess their buying patterns. Once that is done, you can easily take a call if you would like to build your brand by appealing to a certain section of the population. A fresh entrant in this industry can slowly emerge as a competitor of leading players by creating new markets.

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