The US market for energy supplements is estimated to be worth more than $1.2 billion (€1.37bn) in retail sales in 2001, and while young, male consumers are the target audience for most energy supplement producers, market research group Mintel has discovered that an increasingly broad spectrum of consumers are using them.
According to Mintel's report, annual growth rates in the energy supplements segment - powdered/liquid protein beverages, energy bars and energy drinks - have been above 20 per cent for each of the last five years, and foods and beverages sold on an energy platform have caught fire with consumers, propelled by a mixture of innovative guerrilla marketing, an "individuality through consumerism" youth culture, and increases in participation in physical recreation activities.
Companies are now developing their marketing programmes to include women, young and old, as well as occasional athletes, rather than just professional athletes and body builders. Mintel said that as the industry continues to grow, so does the variety of potential customers, from extreme sportsmen and women to the office worker taking a meal replacement at his desk.
This last category is becoming increasingly important, Mintel said. Almost 20 per cent of those who consume energy bars are doing so as a meal replacement, and the proportion of women consuming these products as meal replacements is much higher (25 per cent) than men (9 per cent). Women were also more likely to claim convenience as a primary benefit over male consumers.
Mintel's findings support the positioning of many current products; males are interested in stamina while females are interested in weight loss or becoming leaner. Because the two sexes have such different perceived needs, new brands and positioning for women are likely to be needed to move the consumption needle for women, the researchers said.
The majority of energy supplement consumers are aged 18-24, but even in this core market there is still substantial room for growth, and companies are unlikely to change their marketing strategies too much. However, Mintel suggested that in order to achieve real penetration of the market, companies would have to turn some of their marketing efforts to older consumers.
Consumers over 55 are increasingly active, are joining health clubs, and are therefore more likely a strong potential market for energy supplements, the report said. Mintel's consumer research showed that one-third of this age group would consider purchasing an energy or cereal bar.
The report also showed that energy/stimulant beverage and powdered/liquid protein drink consumers are both relatively more likely to be black or Hispanic than white. Hispanic rates of consumption are 50-100 per cent higher than that of whites. This finding would imply that communication targeted to black, Hispanic or urban audiences should be most efficient in further increasing energy drink consumption, the report suggested.