Game, set, match

Rubicon Raw range

Local retailers have a bountiful opportunity to score big with sports and energy drinks this summer.

by Gaelle Walker

From football to tennis, racing to running, nothing brings the nation together in quite the same way as sport: the great leveller that unites people of all ages, backgrounds, genders and cultures in the pursuit of shared victory.

And fortunately for said people and the stores that supply them, the summer of 2022 looks set to serve up plenty of opportunities to do just that – with a raft of high-profile sporting events and occasions sure to get the nation going.

One category which is sure to win big over the period is sports and energy drinks, as shoppers come together in support of big-name events and get inspired to inject a bit more sport into their daily lives.

Now worth over £1.7bn, the UK’s sports and energy category has enjoyed a “steep upward trajectory in growth over the last year,” up by £276.4m in the 52weeks to 26 February 22 according to Red Bull.

This growth, Red Bull says, is being fuelled by the increasing consumer demand for Functional Energy – products which give them a physical boost but also strike a balance between enjoyment, practicality and health with low to no sugar options.

In-fact, according to Red Bull, these types of functional drinks alone have now exceeded the billion-pound mark, today worth over £1.2bn annually.

Fast facts
  • Tropical and exotic flavours are growing 38% more than all other mainstream flavours. (Red Bull)
  • 41% of energy drink consumers are looking to try more exotic fruit flavours. (Red Bull)
  • Sugar-free variants grew penetration by 24.3% in the 24 weeks to 26 Dec vs a year ago. (Red Bull)

The rise of low and no sugar

Functional drinks that offer the added incentive of less sugar in particular are enjoying significant success, with “insight having shown that sugar-free variants have grown spend by 23.3%  according to Kantar data for the 24 weeks to 20 Feb 22 vs a year ago,” Red Bull says.

In fact, Red Bull Zero 250ml alone has seen a £4.6m increase in sales value since its 2020 relaunch.


It’s not just sugar-free variants that have grown penetration over the last year, with tropical and exotic flavours growing 39% more than all other mainstream flavours on offer,  according to Red Bull.

In-line with this trend, March saw Red Bull reveal its latest seasonal Edition with the launch of 2022’s new Apricot and Strawberry flavoured Summer Edition.

And Red Bull is certainly not alone in encouraging retailers to get in on the flavours act this summer.

As Suntory Beverage & Food (SBF) wholesale channel director Matt Gouldsmith explains: “Flavours is another strong area of growth for the soft drinks category, and new flavours are crucial for retailers looking to drive excitement and bring in incremental shoppers, with one in four flavour shoppers being entirely new to the energy category.

“Within this, the Lucozade Energy flavours range has contributed £60.7m worth of sales.”

2022’s summer of sports

The summer ahead holds a great many opportunities for retailers to tap into large sporting occasions including the Commonwealth Games as well as the FIFA Football World Cup later in the year.

However, one of the biggest sporting highlights this summer looks set to be the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 which will be held in England for the first time since 2005.

Kicking off on 6 July in venues across England, the tournament of 16 nations is sure to generate high levels of shoppers interest and excitement, with convenience retailers well- placed to capitalise, Suntory Beverage & Food says.

  • English FA Cup Final 14 May 2022
  • Wimbledon 27 June – 10 July
  • F1 British Grand Prix 1-3 July
  • Tour de France 1-3 July 2022
  • UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 6 to 31 July 22 (held in England)
  • Commonwealth Games 28 – 8 August
  • The Hundred 3 August- 3 September

Building on the success of its Tropical Burst and Cherry Blast flavours, Lucozade’s Alert brand has brought a brand-new flavour to shelves, with the launch of Lucozade Alert Original.

Featuring the same taste as Lucozade Original, Lucozade Alert provides Niacin (Vitamin B3) to contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, plus 160mg of naturally sourced caffeine.

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) also joined the flavour party in mid-April, with the arrival of Monster Ultra Gold and Monster Khaotic.

With zero sugar and a juicy pineapple flavour, Ultra Gold has been designed to give consumers a “delicious and refreshing energy boost with no calories.

Tropical orange flavoured Monster Khaotic meanwhile, offers “a shake-up of one of the original Monster Juiced variants launched more than a decade ago when real fruit juice was first combined with the functionality of energy drinks.”

Both variants are available now and available in both plain and price-marked 500ml packs, with POS available on request.

The new variants will join an already colourful line-up of new flavoured options for 2022, including the March launch of Rubicon Raw Apple & Guava.

Commenting on the launch, Barr Soft Drinks’ marketing director Adrian Troy says: “We know that new flavours drive interest and growth in the category, delivering £131m last year.”

“The Rubicon Raw Apple & Guava flavour allows us to grow our brand, but more importantly, it allows retailers to invigorate and excite their category with a product that has delivered exceptional results in consumer research,” he adds.

Size matters

Although drink-later formats currently make up 62% of the total share of soft drinks, drink-now formats are seeing high year-on-year growth at 26% according to SBF.

Shoppers have sought more hydration while out and about following the end of Covid restrictions. “To capitalise on this growing trend, retailers should stock up on on-the-go formats of energy and sports drinks like Lucozade Energy and Lucozade Sport to meet shopper needs, particularly as the weather gets warmer and shoppers spend more time outside,” SBF’s Goldsmith adds.

HFSS Reformulation drive

With the advent of HFSS legislation looming, the summer of 2022 is also likely to see a large swathe of brand reformulations, as manufacturers seek to make their products comply ahead of the October deadline.

Britvic’s Rockstar energy drinks brand reduced the sugar content across its core range of energy drinks in March, making its six bestsellers HFSS compliant.

The core Rockstar flavours will join the majority of the line-up which already falls under the planned regulations.

The updated Rockstar core range (with less than 4.5g of sugar per 100ml) is being rolled out now in both plain and price-marked packs, with a disruptive out-of-home advertising and social campaign for the brand following in June.

The flavours available include Original, Punched Tropical Guava, XDurance Blueberry Pomegranate Acai, Juiced El Mango, Juiced Tropical Punch, Juiced Tropical Orange Passion Fruit – alongside Original No Sugar and Punched Sour Bubbleburst, which already fall under the HFSS restrictions.

Suntory Beverage & Food (SBF) is also well ahead of the curve on HFSS legislation, with all bottles and cans of Lucozade and Ribena already non-HFSS due to the reformulation drive it has been carrying out over the past few years.

SBF’s wholesale channel director Matt Gouldsmith says: “Each brand has a zero or low sugar option in the form of Lucozade Zero, Ribena Light and Orangina Light. This means we won’t need to adapt our marketing strategy due to the restrictions and we can continue to market our full range of lower sugar drinks to shoppers across all channels as normal.

“For retailers this means they do not need to relocate our drinks and can continue to promote all Lucozade and Ribena drinks in every location in store.

“Importantly, we don’t see low-sugar and great taste as mutually exclusive – the years of investment we’ve made into reformulating our brands means shoppers can still buy a soft drink with lower or zero sugar without compromising on taste.”

Ranging and Merchandising Advice
  • Stock up on multi-pack formats ahead of the Summer season.
  • Range sports and energy drinks together rather than by supplier to help shoppers easily find what they want.
  • Put your biggest sellers on a priority shelf in line with where shoppers’ eyes will naturally be drawn.
  • Encourage impulse sales with window posters and shelf barkers
  • Give stimulation drinks more prominence. Low-price point stimulation drinks are a big seller, so keep these near higher-price point stimulation drinks to range together and give the whole range more importance. The stimulation category is growing by 22%.
  • Create themed fixtures and promotions – 51% of shoppers are more likely to visit their local store if they offer themed promotions according to HIM.