Despite widely-known concerns about the safety of certain ingredients, energy drinks and shots are expected to remain popular with American consumers, primarily older millennials ages 27-37 years who may be transitioning to parenthood, according to a new report from Mintel. U.S. millennials increased energy drink consumption from 55 percent to 61 percent from 2014 to 2015, despite the fact that 74 percent of older millennials express concerns about product safety compared to 65 percent of consumers overall.
Interestingly, 81 percent of U.S. consumers agree that companies should include recommended daily consumption limits on energy drink/shot packaging. Despite all this, data shows that safety concerns have had little impact on consumers. While 65 percent of all users worry about the safety of regular energy drinks/shots, it does not stop them from drinking the products. Only half of consumers drinking fewer energy drinks/shots agree they are concerned, compared to 68 percent who are drinking the same amount, and 41 percent are drinking more. In fact, consumption overall has diversified with many consumers (27 percent) drinking both regular and natural energy drinks/shots. This points to a growing popularity of natural claims in the category with 30 percent of users consuming natural energy drinks/shots.
“While there has been a movement, especially among Millennials, toward more natural ingredients, the energy drinks and shots market remains largely unaffected by changing consumer attitudes," said Elisabeth Sisel, beverage analyst at Mintel. “The majority, a full 90 percent, of natural energy drink consumers also drink regular energy drinks. The steady consumption of both regular and natural energy products implies that U.S. consumers may not perceive energy drinks as negatively as pop culture conveys."
According to the report, older millennials are the core consumers of the U.S. energy drinks/shots market, with 64 percent consuming energy drinks. While the same percentage of 18- to 26-year-olds also consume energy drinks, older millennials are increasing their consumption. Twenty-nine percent of older millennials consumed more energy drinks within the past three months compared to 22 percent who consumed less. This outpaces consumers age 18 to 26, of which only 16 percent reported consuming more and 27 percent said they drank less.
Older millennials also strongly agree that energy drinks/shots are good substitutes for alternative caffeine beverages, including coffee (65 percent) and carbonated soft drinks (64 percent).
“Older millennials are, more likely than not, going through a lifestyle shift, such as getting married or having children, including 55 percent of those age 30-34 with kids. As a result, their interests and priorities are shifting and individuals that require more energy are turning to energy drinks and shots," Sisel added. “However, this goes against the grain of most energy drink advertising, which focuses primarily on young, single consumers and their active lifestyles. Our data shows the older millennial consumer segment displays more brand loyalty and potential for long term usage."
Similarly, consumption rates of energy drinks/shots are higher than average among U.S. parents. Households with children are significantly more likely to consume energy drinks (58 percent) and shots (48 percent) when compared to those without children (27 percent and 18 percent respectively).
Overall, the energy drinks/shots category saw 56 percent growth from 2009-2014, including a quick recovery from low sales gains in 2013 when the industry came under fire for ingredient safety. Mintel predicts the industry will continue to grow through 2019, increasing an estimated 52 percent from 2014-2019. While parents and millennials show increases in consumption of energy drinks, they have decreased their consumption of energy shots, which points to why the energy shot segment is spiraling. Energy drinks comprise 89 percent market share, with the segment expected to grow 10 percent in 2015 to $10.8 billion. However, the energy shots segment is one-eighth the size and expected to decline in sales for the third consecutive year.