By Katie Clemency, Principal, The Cambridge Group
Monster, Rockstar, Red Bull: Most of us are familiar with the more assertive, masculine imagery of energy drinks. And, thanks to broad sampling at extreme sporting events, bars and restaurants, many of us also think of 20-year-old males as the audience who consumes these types of beverages—whether it be to stay up late studying, gain an extra edge for a sports event or extend a long evening of revelry.
Yet as energy drinks continue their reign as one of fastest growing beverage categories, up 40 percent from 2010 to 2012, there is a surprising consumer audience that has been largely on the sidelines in the energy drink market—until now: busy young mothers.
Nielsen Homescan data in the U.S. indicates that busy moms (and their households), categorized as “Young Bustling Families,” are more likely to use energy drinks than average. In fact, their purchasing index is 150, higher than the following categories:
- “Young Transitionals,” or young adults just coming out of college (115).
- “Independent Singles” in their 20s and 30s (77).
While part of this finding may be due to the fact that younger consumers drink energy beverages “on-the-go,” the evidence remains: busy moms appear to represent another heavy user category, akin to young males. And for many of these busy mom consumers, use of the product is hidden, with energy drinks concealed in the pantry and consumed as a quick afternoon “pick-me-up” before the kids come home from school.
The reason for this hidden usage appears to be a culmination of concerns, a primary one being to ensure the caffeine-heavy beverages remain out of children’s reach.
While health concerns exist for adults as well as kids, it doesn’t deter young moms from the habit. Whether it’s an aversion to coffee’s taste or calories, the need for a quick fix, or the pressure to do it all as the primary caregiver and increasingly the primary breadwinner, women continue to consume on the sly.
Tapping into hidden usage
It’s clear most energy drink companies know their heavier “Young Transitional” audience well. But critical to exploiting the emerging pockets of demand is their understanding of the “Young Bustling Mom” audience. To do so, it’s important to draw from data, such as consumption index reports, to determine who the heavy users of the category are and not just who you think they are.
Using this approach, companies such as 5-hour ENERGY, creator of the popular energy shots, recognized the consumption patterns of women. As a result, it made initial inroads in the effort to develop a women-friendly energy drink by launching a pink lemonade flavor, with a portion of the sales donated to the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade. The effort exceeded expectations, causing such great demand by 5-hour ENERGY fans that “two additional production runs had to be ordered,” according to the company. Monster Energy also made an effort with the launch of “Zero Ultra,” a beverage with no sugar or calories, a sweeter, more refreshing flavor, and packaged in a white can with feminine design elements. Due to its overwhelming success, Monster also released a new “Ultra Blue” line this year. However, for reasons unknown, it recently put plans for its “Ultra Pink” line on hold.
In the future, energy drink manufacturers are likely to increasingly boast the health benefits of their offerings on the label—from “contains real juice” to “fat-burning” to “green tea”—to shift its empty-calorie perception and convert soda drinkers. This may fuse some short-term consumer interest; however, if the market does not create differentiated offerings and unique brands that consistently cater to counterintuitive customers (i.e., young moms), it is likely the market will soon see a saturation point, bringing its rapid growth to a screeching halt.
If Danica Patrick could change the racing industry and Lowe’s could transform women’s home improvement experience, there’s hope that at least one manufacturer will dare to succeed where few have before: creating energy drinks that women proudly drink out in the open. Until then, images of 20-year-old males and extreme sports will continue to dominate the market’s public assessment.
This article was originally published on Quartz.