In 2020, energy drinks contributed more to the packaged beverage category than soda for the first time ever — accounting for 28.5% of sales.
And this growth is expected to continue at least through 2026. In fact, over the next five years, the global energy drink market is expected to grow at an increasing CAGR of 7.24%, ultimately reaching $56 billion in value.
Much of this growth is due to a confluence of trends working in the category’s favor — rising health consciousness combined with an increasingly hectic lifestyle, for example. But individual brands within the industry are also doing a lot of things right.
With that in mind, let’s look at what the top energy drink brands are doing. Here are 5 lessons CPG brands should learn right now.
1. Bang's strategy to appeal to Gen Z using innovative flavors
Image credit: Bang
Bang’s incredible success in the crowded energy drink market is partially due to their unique and innovative flavors that appeal to Gen Z consumers. A few of their most popular varieties, for example, include Candy Apple Crisp, Birthday Cake, Rainbow Unicorn, and Sour Heads.
These flavors are both bold and familiar at the same time, a combination uniquely suited to Gen Z according to Sarah Diedrich, customer marketing manager at Synergy Flavors.
“What we see is it tends to be a familiar flavor or a bold flavor like a spice, a sour, a sweet, but not too far-reaching,” Ms. Diedrich said. “Maybe it’s just that flavor combination in a new format… With Gen Z, it’s a little bit on the safer side of combinations.”
These innovative flavors have helped in propelling Bang into 3rd place in the energy drink category, behind only Red Bull and Monster. And Bang continues to post regular distribution gains — increasing its presence in the c-store channel by 15.4% in 2020. Plus, NielsenIQ data shows that Bang increased its ACV (all commodity volume) to 95.1% in the first quarter alone.
2. Mountain Dew’s plan of finding a new angle in a saturated market
Image credit: PepsiCo
CPG brands would be wise to take a page out of PepsiCo’s playbook when it comes to breaking into a crowded category. And it all started when the iconic company realized that while 60 million Americans drink caffeine every morning, only 20 million consume traditional energy drinks during this time.
So they created Mountain Dew Rise — a fruity, caffeinated juice beverage designed to capture a piece of the morning caffeine market by appealing to consumers who might prefer something other than a coffee or classic energy drink.
And after a year in development, Mountain Dew Rise hit the shelves in the spring of 2021. At just 25 calories, Rise boasts 180 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of two cups of coffee) and is loaded with supplements — a nod towards the better-for-you trend that’s been sweeping the nation.
The new beverage is available for $2.59 a can in the flavors Pomegranate Blue Burst, Orange Breeze, Strawberry Melon Spark, Tropical Sunrise, Berry Blitz, and Peach Mango Dawn.
Unfortunately for Pepsi, there’s one more lesson CPG brands should take from Mountain Dew Rise. And that’s to choose your product name carefully. Pepsi is currently facing a lawsuit from a small coffee-brewing company that makes a canned coffee product called Rise.
The small company won a preliminary battle in November when a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction which "bars PepsiCo from using the Mtn Dew Rise name commercially and from selling products under any other name that would be confusingly similar to Rise Brewing's 'Rise' trademarks while the lawsuit is proceeding."
3. TikTok marketing strategy from Red Bull
Image credit: Red Bull via TikTok
The list of things brands should learn from Red Bull is long and impressive. After all, the iconic brand basically started the entire energy drink category back in the dark ages when coffee and soda were the only caffeinated beverages we had to keep us going.
But the takeaway we’re going to focus on today has to do with social media — TikTok in particular. As you can see in the screenshot above, the top-selling energy drink brand is simply crushing it on TikTok, amassing a staggering 6.1 million followers and over 95 million likes.
How is Red Bull doing it? They’re staying true to their roots and connecting with consumers in an authentic way. Of course, it helps that extreme stunts were kind of Red Bull’s thing from the go. And TikTok just happens to be a platform that thrives on that kind of thing. But credit goes to Red Bull for recognizing the potential of the platform and executing it to a T.
For example, their action-packed videos (identified with the hashtag #givesyouwiiings) are clearly NOT ads. They’re just videos of people doing stuff, albeit crazy stuff, which resonates with their customer base. To date, Red Bull’s videos have been viewed over 885 million times — making them one of the most followed branded accounts on TikTok.
4. Monster’s authentic brand engagement strategy
Image credit: statista.com
We would be remiss not to include Monster Energy in this list. After all, the energy drink brand is the only one to come anywhere close to Red Bull in terms of sales and market share. So how did the proverbial David move in on Goliath?
Not with traditional marketing, that’s for sure. In fact, Monster hardly spent anything on advertising. Instead, they took Red Bull’s strategy of event sponsorship and made it their own by bringing a rebellious, edgy personality to the mix.
The goal was to connect with consumers and turn them into raving fans who would, in turn, promote the brand — essentially influencer marketing before there were influencers.
As the brand explains, “At Monster, all of our guys walk the walk in action sports, punk rock music, partying, hangin’ with the girls, and living life on the edge. Monster is way more than an energy drink. Led by our athletes, musicians, employees, distributors, and fans, Monster is a lifestyle in a can!”
Jamal BenmiloudI, former leader of marketing teams at both Red Bull and Monster and current EARN chief creative officer, calls this “story being” rather than “storytelling.” And it’s a timely lesson for CPG brands to take note of in the age of social media and connectedness.
In fact, when customers feel connected to brands, more than half will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor. And recent studies show that real people are the key to developing these authentic consumer-brand relationships.
Basically, consumers want to learn more about the actual people behind their favorite brands. 70% of consumers, for example, report feeling more connected when a brand’s CEO is active on social media. And 72% of consumers report feeling more connected when employees share information about a brand online.
5. Rockstar’s strategy to rebrand towards a new target market
Image credit: PepsiCo
If you’re in the CPG industry, you know that brands sometimes falter or stagnate, even after finding initial success. This can be especially true when categories become overcrowded. Such was the case with Rockstar Energy, the once vibrant brand that experienced years of flat or declining demand.
However, Rockstar’s fortunes took a turn when Pepsi stepped in and bought the flatlining brand in the spring of 2020. Since then, Rockstar’s sales have started growing again — largely due to a major rebranding effort focused on attracting gamers.
Rockstar is using partnerships with popular gaming platforms to gain traction in this market.
In February 2021, for example, Rockstar partnered with Twitch’s 100 Thieves for a year-long events and content partnership. And in October, the brand released five collector edition cans and one limited edition new flavor in partnership with Xbox and Halo Infinite.
Fabiola Torres, SVP of Pepsi’s energy category, explains that “For Rockstar, it is important to be connected with youth and culture, and there’s no better connection than being on gaming right now.”
Of course, only time will tell how Rockstar’s rebranding effort plays out, but for now, the outlook is good.
As you can see, the top energy drink brands are doing a lot of things right. Here’s a recap of 5 lessons you can apply to your own CPG brand:
- Appeal to Gen Z with innovative flavors
- Find a new angle in a saturated market
- Implement TikTok marketing strategies
- Practice authentic brand engagement
- Rebrand towards a new target market
Marketing a CPG brand? See how Koupon helps CPG brands reach more consumers
Powered by nearly 5 billion consumer transactions, Koupon provides brands in the CPG industry with unique insights that help measure and increase your revenue in the c-store channel.
Here’s how Koupon gets results for CPG brands in c-stores:
- We connect brands with retailers, using our network of over 55,000 c-store locations.
- We help brands reach and engage c-store shoppers with targeted digital promotions that boost store trips, increase basket size, and drive sales growth.
- We help brands secure new distribution across our network using digital promotion campaigns proven to drive product trials and awareness.
- We help simplify execution. Our team takes care of everything from selling campaigns to retailers to execution, fulfillment, and everything in between.
- We help brands make data-informed decisions by evaluating consumer patterns across products, stores, and channels. And we’ll help you use these insights to adjust and launch data-driven marketing strategies.
The bottom line? We connect brands and retailers, helping everyone reach more customers and drive sales. Get in touch with our sales team to learn more!