Ieva Petkeviciute, Dipl Ing., NPD manager at drinks development company MyDrink Beverages (which has offices in the UK, Denmark and Lithuania) told BeverageDaily.com there will always be a massive market for standard energy drinks like Red Bull.
“But we have a trend now towards naturalness and healthy living – it’s definitely coming, and most of our developments at the moment are for natural energy drinks,” she said.
“People are trying to avoid not only, for example, citric acid or artificial flavourings – they want to avoid traditional stabilisers, even, in the drinks,” Petkeviciute (pictured) added.
With brands increasingly keen to retain the interest of older millennials, or attract older consumers into the category, she said: “If you ask me now, ‘what would you add to an energy drink for older people?’, I would say, perhaps gingko biloba or panax ginseng."
Gingko biloba: Smart drug properties for older people?
Gingko is believed to have nootropic (‘smart drug’) properties, and is used as a memory and concentration enhancer, while ginseng is linked to better memory performance, and lower fasting blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes sufferers.
“Talking about energy drinks with other functions, I would say that, for sure, there is a trend for beauty drinks, while weight loss is also huge as a market due to obesity problems,” Petkeviciute said.
“Lately, the ingredient that is trending up, which offers beauty and energy at the same time, and what everyone is demanding is green tea with EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate).”
EGCG is one of four primary polyphenols found in fresh tea leaves, and the potent antioxidant has been linked to possible benefits in terms of fat oxidation (and thus weight loss, ultimately), and even as a treatment for cancer or neuro degeneration.
“This kind of trend at the moment – we have several developments, all in Scandinavia – is due to the success of the Celsius brand,” Petkeviciute said. “Everyone there is trying to make something similar."
Asked if she thought such trends could spread to other nations, such as the UK, she added: "I’m sure it could work elsewhere."
Lack of EFSA claims presents ‘huge marketing challenge’
However, the EU health claims environment is problematic, and as recently as December 2012, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected an application under Article 13.5 of the 2006 health claim regulation for a green tea/guarana extra to be recognized for its weight loss properties.
“Not all the ingredients have EFSA claims, and this is the huge challenge for marketing guys, the branding. But there are ways to overcome this, you just have to think about it carefully,” Petkeviciute said.
Discussing commonly used energy drink ingredients, Petkeviciute said: "Amino acids are common, but not as common as caffeine or other energy ingredients. Take taurine. It occurs naturally in the body, but somehow in Scandinavia it has a negative image and customers ask us to avoid it, develop a drink without it.
“From my viewpoint energy drinks are becoming herbal, with brands adding more herbs, more plant extracts,” Petkeviciute told this website.
‘Sugar has a bad image, but is the body’s preferred fuel…’
MyDrink’s NPD manager also revealed that her firm has many client demands for formulations using stevia, “since sugar has a bad image, and customers are trying to avoid it and asking for other solutions”.
“I suggest stevia to them, or a mixer – say, stevia with deionized grape juice concentrate or agave syrup – so the drink is more natural and can use marketing claims such as ‘sweetened from fruits’ or ‘naturally sweetened’ – something like that,” Petkeviciute said.
“However, sugar is the body’s preferred fuel, so you can’t avoid it in energy drinks,” she added.
Check out our other special edition articles dedicated to energy drinks below!