The industries for coffee, natural energy drinks, and tea have all experienced a common phenomenon in recent years: growth. In fact, natural energy drinks have benefitted from triple-digit growth in recent years, and since 2016, the number of energy drink launches with an ‘all natural’ claim has increased 178%.
Between 2016-2019, low, no, and sugar-free claims increased by +106% in European sports and energy drink launches as consumers have become more mindful of the physical and mental impacts of sugar. As such, the trend for healthier, clean-label options are on the rise, leading to exciting developments across the beverage landscape.
What are natural energy drinks?
Natural energy drinks are typically marketed as beverages that are free from synthetic caffeine and artificial colours, sweeteners, and preservatives. Instead, they utilise naturally occurring sources of caffeine and clean-label ingredients such as green tea and cold brew coffee as an alternative to traditional energy drinks.
In the UK, legislative factors, such as the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and implementation of the HFSS, are driving traditional energy brands to innovate reduced sugar variants. Meanwhile, the natural energy drinks category has also experienced growth due to the ripple effect of last year’s synthetic caffeine shortages originating in China, the world’s largest exporters.
Why do some consumers want natural energy drinks?
In 2022, 23% of global energy drink launches carried a ‘natural’ claim, in response to 55% of global consumers who find natural claims ‘very appealing’.
What is more, 66% of female consumers, who typically fall outside of the target audience for many energy drink brands, believe energy drinks are ‘unnatural and unhealthy’. This has presented a significant opportunity for naturally positioned energy drink brands such as Tenzing, Purdey’s and Virtue, to gain traction with health-conscious consumers.
What are plant-based energy drinks?
With 62% of consumers gravitating towards healthier, clean-label, free-from beverages, the trend for plant-based energy drinks continues to rise. These types of beverages typically contain botanicals and herbs such as maca root, ginseng, and guarana. These ingredients are often perceived as natural, mood-boosting stimulants that also contain other health benefits.
What are the benefits of natural and plant-based energy drinks?
There are numerous benefits natural energy drinks can offer health-conscious consumers, such as:
- Slow-release caffeine: Energy drinks that contain l-theanine, an amino acid found in black and green tea, slow down the absorption and release of caffeine in the body.
- Natural sweetness: cold brew is perceived to boast a naturally smooth taste profile and contains zero added sugar. In comparison, traditional energy drinks contain on average 71g of sugar per serving.
- Antioxidants: Green tea, often found in natural energy drinks, are believed to be rich in antioxidants which are associated with promoting metabolic and immune health5.
What to look for in the purchase of natural energy beverages as a brand owner
Choosing the right supplier is no easy task. An ideal supplier will demonstrate that they understand your consumer’s needs and have a product portfolio that can support them. Brand owners can also benefit from choosing a supplier who have direct and transparent supply chains to lower risk and increase consistency of production and supply.
A supplier who can demonstrate a true commitment to sustainability and traceability is also important and they should be able to add value to your brand through innovative solutions. They should have an experienced in-house technical team with quality and regulatory capabilities that are relevant to the markets where you sell your products. If you want your product to be sold in multiple countries or markets, you should choose a supplier experienced in global regulation.
Finally, a supplier should have a strong, established reputation to provide assurance that they have the experience and capabilities to deliver what it says it will, when it will.
 Mintel GNPD 2021, (global energy drink launches 2016-2019)
 Mintel GNPD 2022, Better Marketing
 Mintel GNPD 2022, Better Marketing
 Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review – PMC (nih.gov), Benzie, I. et al. 1999 Consumption of Green Tea Causes Rapid Increase in Plasma Antioxidant Power in Humans, Nutrition and Cancer, 34:1, 83-87, DOI: 10.1207/S15327914NC340112