Energy Support: A Cross-Category Look

August 5, 2021
Trends Innovation Energy
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Who doesn’t want more energy? In a world full of screens, social media and increasing sleeplessness, consumers are just plain exhausted. Add the increased stress of the last year and you have a public that’s desperately in need of a boost. Even pre-pandemic, trends show that many consumers were eager for products that could give them a hit of energy, whether physical or mental. And now, with the increased focus on functional ingredients in everything from water to ice cream, there are more ways than ever to deliver that energy in flavorful products and offerings. This growing market gives brands the opportunity to find their niche in the energy space –– is it right for your brand? Read on to find out.

Energizing Ingredients

While caffeine is clearly the best-known energizing ingredient, it’s far from the only one. Here are a few caffeine alternatives that companies are reaching for to give their products a little bit of buzz.

Taurine is an amino acid that’s a common ingredient in many energy drinks. Some studies have found taurine to boost mental performance, particularly when combined with caffeine.

Vitamin B12 helps convert fat and protein into glucose, which gives you energy . It’s also an essential part of our diets; B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and more.

Ginseng: The root of the ginseng plant is commonly used in traditional medicine. It is thought to have numerous health benefits, including reduced fatigue and increased mental and physical energy.

Maca root originates in the Andes, where it has been cultivated for centuries. Some studies indicate that it can improve athletic performance and enhance energy.

Products of Note:

Free Rain Enhanced Sparkling Water Tart Cherry and Siberian Ginseng includes 330 mg of ginseng for energy. The line comes with three flavors targeting different occasions.

Organic Chocolate Maca Energy Chews are non-GMO, kosher certified and organic and only use fair-trade cocoa powder. Each 5.5 oz bag contains roughly 2.5 servings of the chews.

Stacker’s B12 Energy Shot contains 10,000% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin B12, and has zero calories and zero sugar. The 2 oz shots claim to provide up to 5 hours of clear-headed energy.
Flavor can go hand-in-hand with energy-enhancing ingredients. Pair bright, invigorating flavors like peppermint, chili and ginger with functional foods like B12 or caffeine to highlight their energizing qualities. - Mintel

Top Flavors & Categories

Top Flavors with Functional – Energy Claim

Global New Product Introductions – Past 3 Years

  • Chocolate

  • Vanilla/Vanilla Bourbon/Vanilla Madagascar

  • Orange/Sweet Orange

  • Strawberry

  • Lemon

  • Fruit

  • Berry

  • Cocoa/cacao

  • Date

  • Banana

Top Categories with Functional – Energy Claim

Global New Product Introductions – Past 3 Years

  • Snacks

  • Sports & Energy Drinks

  • Nutritional Drinks & Other Beverages

Energy Interest
Energy is the top sought attribute in functional beverages with 45% of consumers saying they want drinks that increase energy. But, consumers will not give up great taste; 67% say taste is the most important factor when ordering a functional beverage. -Datassential, New Foundations in Health

32% of consumers say energy benefits from functional foods interest them most, and they would like to see them available from supermarket and retail. -Datassential, New Foundations in Health

Who’s Tired?

Consumers are in the midst of an energy crisis: according to Mintel, 26% of US adults feel constantly tired/exhausted, rising to 32% among 16-44 year olds. More than a year into the pandemic, our bodies and minds are starting to feel the long-term effects of the stress, anxiety and trauma that we’ve collectively experienced. And with many people experiencing poor quality sleep, fatigue increases.

Food and beverage developers can find opportunity in this space by creating flavorful products that support consumers’ energy needs , which are no longer limited to mornings. There are multiple times throughout the day that people might reach for a boost; beyond the traditional caffeinated breakfast drinks, consider mid-afternoon snacks using alternative ingredients that won’t disrupt sleep and pre-workout products that provide physical, rather than mental, energy.
 “There has been a 300 per cent increase in people searching ‘how to get your brain to focus’, an 110 per cent increase in ‘how to focus better’, and 60 per cent rise in ‘how to increase focus”  - New Statesman

Coffee, Tea and Hybrids

Coffee is the undisputed king of energy-boosting beverages, with the average American drinking nearly two cups daily. During the pandemic, home coffee consumption increased and more than 40% of Americans bought a new type of coffee. Brands can take advantage of this trend by enticing customers with new features to their favorite morning drink. Whether it’s touting a more sustainably sourced bean or an extra jolt of caffeine, consumers are in the market for innovation.

In the U.S., tea is often perceived as calming, even though black and green tea both contain caffeine. New products in the tea category have two options for combatting the stereotype:

Boost the Caffeine

Offer the best of both worlds with coffee-infused teas. Blurring categories, Mintel reports that coffee-flavored Hong Kong-style milk teas are currently most prevalent in Asia, with potential to grow across regions. While several American cafe chains now serve this style of tea, the consumer product lane remains wide open.

Lean into non-caffeinated energy

Tea, which already includes herbs and botanicals, can combine those with clinically proven nutrients that support energy function. Alternative energy ingredients such as ginseng, maca, ginger and kola nut can be combined with clinically proven nutrients that support energy functions, including vitamin B12 and magnesium, to replace caffeine for those who are trying to abstain.

Products of Note:

Trader Joe’s Maple Espresso Black Tea Blend is packaged into individual tea bags to make brewing ultra-simple. The caffeine content of roughly 20 mg is on the mild side, making it a great option for people who are looking to cut back.

Get Smart Tea from The Republic of Tea is chock-full of caffeine-free energizing ingredients, including ginko, gotu cola, and eleuthero. It’s said to improve focus and give you a hit of mental clarity without the after-effects of caffeine.

Ocean Spray Cranberry Blueberry with Cold Brew Coffee is described as a refreshing juice with a hint of coffee flavor and aroma. It contains 40mg natural caffeine and antioxidant vitamin C and B vitamins.

30% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product

Califia Nitro Latte Cold Brew Coffee with Oatmilk is described as a smooth and frothy unsweetened black and white cold brew coffee. It is said to provide a clean energy boost with cold brew coffee blend, smooth oat milk and frothed with nitrogen.

33% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Energy Drinks and Beyond

Energy drinks are a huge category that’s only going to keep growing; Mintel reports that the market was worth $14.3 BN in 2020, and is projected to rise to $19.2 BN by 2025. As the pandemic wanes, the return of social occasions and a strong economy have led to an increased demand for energy drinks, which means there’s plenty of opportunities for newcomers to enter this buzzy space. 61% of energy drink consumers sometimes or often switch brands, and 65% of those who do, do so to try a new flavor.

But traditional energy drinks aren’t the only game in town. For consumers who don’t drink energy drinks, 42% say it’s because they’re too high in caffeine, while 39% don’t like the taste. This leaves lots of room for alternative energy drink options:

Dairy Drinks

According to Mintel, dairy drinks benefit from a close association with coffee, which can be leveraged to help consumers overcome pandemic-induced fatigue. The high protein content in dairy can provide physical energy and aid with workout recovery. Dairy drinks should also consider options for providing mental energy, such as through combining caffeine with ingredients like L-theanine or iron for overall energy improvement.


Sparkling water is everywhere right now, and with no added sugar or calories/perception of “clean” ingredients, it’s the perfect vehicle for an energy boost. Consider caffeine for a stronger lift, or adding adaptogens like shatavari that provide energy without the jitters.

Products of Note:

Joy Milk Tea uses the combination of caffeine and L-theanine to promise “focused energy without the crash.” Each 11 oz can contains a blend of black tea, providing 130 mg of caffeine and 40-60 mg of L-theanine, and whole milk for both mental and physical energy.

Perrier Energize is a line of sparkling waters that are energy-enhanced with caffeine and yerba mate. The slim 8.45 oz contain as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and come in bright flavors including grapefruit, tangerine and pomegranate.

Ripple Coffee Vegan Protein Shake contains 75mg caffeine and 20 grams of pea protein. The dairy free coffee flavored shake contains 200 calories and is low sugar.

Eat Your Energy

While drinks are a popular vehicle for energy-boosting ingredients, there’s space for creativity in the food world as well, and each item has its own unique benefits.


  • portable and small

  • similar appeal to on-the-go drinks

  • provide both mental and physical energy

Gum and mints

  • low/no calories for those eating light

  • Ingredients are absorbed quickly through soft tissue in the mouth


  • Combination of indulgence and practicality

  • smaller portion sizes lend themselves to moderation, which can mean less sleep disturbance

Products of Note:

Clif Expresso Energy Bars are made with organic coffee beans and contain 60-70 mg of caffeine. The bars contain 4g protein and are environmentally friendly.

32% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

TruBrain Snack Bars were developed by neuroscientists with a blend of caffeine and nootropic ingredients to boost brain function. The portable 1.59 oz bars are also vegan, soy-free and gluten-free.

Neuro’s Energy and Focus gums and mints are perfect for quick energy without the calories. Caffeine and L-theanine from green tea are combined with zingy flavors like peppermint and cinnamon to wake up your mouth and your brain.

Bang!! caffeinated ice cream is a single-serving treat that boasts as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, plus other energizing ingredients like peanut butter and dairy.

The Takeaways

Consumers are turning to energy-boosting ingredients not only for a quick pick me up but also to help improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Whether it’s the buzz of caffeine in chocolate or the gentler lift of B-vitamins in your seltzer, there’s sure to be an option that suits everyone in the energy support space. Energy support in the food and beverage space today goes way beyond energy drinks, and people are hungry for great-tasting, energy-boosting options right now. The question is - Is it time for your brand to get on board? Let's help you find your "what's next."

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