The US sports and energy drink market is essential when it comes to supporting US consumers’ daily lives, coming with many sports and energy drink trends. They demand convenience without sacrificing quality, aligning with their health and fitness goals. One-third of US consumers purchased energy drinks in the past year and nearly a quarter purchased sports drinks and more have increased rather than decreased their consumption of these popular drinks.
Energy Drink Trends in US
Energy drinks have the highest reach in terms of market penetration worldwide, exceeding that of sports and functional drinks along with numerous energy drink trends. The United States ranks 23rd in global energy drink penetration in 2023 and is tied for first with Japan in consumption of sports drinks. US consumer data shows that energy drinks are used throughout the day in the US, though their use skews toward earlier for energy drinks and sports nutrition alike. When asked which claims influence their purchasing decisions most when consuming energy drinks, US energy drink trends present that 27% of consumers say they are influenced by vitamin and mineral claims when purchasing their beverages, while no, low, and reduced sugar claims influence 24% of consumers.
Sports Drink Trends in US
The claims that most influence consumers when purchasing sports and functional nutrition products are high protein claims (26%) and low, no or reduced sugar claims (24%). US consumers stand out compared to the global average, with 46% of US consumers saying they are influenced by attributes such as taste and flavor when purchasing sports and functional nutrition, compared to the global average of 40%. Innova’s consumer data also shows that consumers are looking for fruit and superfruit flavors (27%) as well as sweet flavors (24%) in sports drinks, and also indicates that the main flavor direction they choose when purchasing sports drinks is familiar (24%) and healthy flavors (14%).
Sports and Energy Drinks NPD
Innovation by way of product launches in energy drink trends has grown at a rate of +20% since 2018, while sports drinks have remained flat or fallen. A large dip in sports drinks RTD in 2020 saw recovery moving forward. In 2022, energy drinks made up almost half (49%) of NPD across the three segments, while sports drinks are 45%.
NPD in Segment Claims
Although protein claims remain an important purchase driver. Protein-based RTD beverages in the US have suffered from a loss in innovation since 2018, with a -33% five-year CAGR. Contrastingly, sugar-free and no added sugar claims grew substantially in all three drinks segments from 2018 to 2022-2023 YTD. Sugar-free claims occurred in 54% of energy drinks launches, gaining 29% points and in 46% of sports drinks launches in 2022-2023 YTD. The use of bulk and non-nutritive sweeteners in energy and sports drinks grew substantially, while sugar, syrup, and honey ingredients contracted.
Consumer and Market Symbiosis
One of many energy drink trends shows that US consumers look to sports and energy drinks to help them achieve their activity and fitness goals. Nutrition and ingredient transparency is a basic expectation of consumers who want companies to help them solve the health puzzle, through convenient nutrition options with clean labels. Brands are responding with lower sugar product portfolios and clearer labeling.
New Offerings for New Demands
Major players in the sports and energy drink segments are making moves by introducing plant-based offerings in protein drinks and value-added plant-based superfoods that promote wellness benefits. In addition to these advances, consumers are demanding convenience without sacrificing quality. This is especially true for US consumers, 26% of whom are influenced by convenience claims, compared to 21% of global consumers. Leading brands are selling the idea of quick quality by offering portable and lightweight products in soluble tablet or powder formats. Rapid rehydration launches suggest a faster way to replenish and recharge.
Nutraceutical and functional ingredients, as well as vitamin and mineral ingredients, are growing across the energy and sports drink market, blurring the lines between the segments as they promise to deliver cross-functional benefits.
Brands in the sports, fitness and energy drink markets are beginning to experiment with hybrid combinations, such as sports and energy drink hybrids. They may be looking to reinvigorate their older product lines by offering more hybrid products that appeal to a wider range of consumers. As hybrid offerings take off, look for more products that offer some of the benefits of each segment in new combinations, flavors and formats. In addition to hybrids, expect to see innovation and expansion around quick and all-day hydration products.
This article is based on our report, “Fueling the Future: Exploring Next-Gen Opportunities in US Sports & Energy Drinks.”
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