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Diet Sodas Facing Challenges: Energy Drinks Continue To Gain Ground

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Thu, 03/04/2014 - 20:28
Ted Marzilli
Coca Cola

YouGov recently analyzed nearly 100 non-alcoholic beverage brands to identify how the sector has evolved in the U.S. over the past year.

The findings indicate that Coca-Cola is the most popular non-alcoholic US beverage brand in terms of recent customers. According to YouGov’s daily BrandIndex service, 28% of American 18+ report purchasing the soda in the past 30 days. Pepsi (#2), Diet Coke (#3), Folgers (#3) and V8 (#4) round out the top 5.

V8, however, holds the consumer perception lead among US adults over the past twelve months, generating the highest Buzz score (23) in the beverages sector. The Buzz question asks whether or not consumers have heard anything positive or negative about the brand through news, advertising, or via word of mouth. Positive feedback minus negative feedback determines the overall score. Coca Cola, the only brand to score in the top 5 in both Current Customers and Buzz, is number 2 on the list, followed by Ocean Spray, Gatorade and Folgers.

V8 is currently advertising its V8 Fusion + Energy drink, and also launched V8 Fusion Refreshers in the last quarter of 2013, likely contributing to the high Buzz scores.

Current Customer: top beverage brands

Buzz: top beverage brands

When looking at several segments within the beverage sector, juice brands receive the highest marks on Buzz among US adults, followed by sports drinks, non-diet sodas and teas and coffees (please see chart below).

The energy drinks segment – while still heavily in negative Buzz and at the bottom of the category – has continued to see improvement over the past year. Energy drinks took a big hit in fall 2012 over reports linking 5-Hour Energy drinks to several deaths.

More recently 5-Hour Energy changed its marketing direction, swapping its cowboy sheriff TV spokesperson for charitable themes, such as a series of “5-Hour Energy Helps Amazing People.” More recently, the brand introduced it “Focus” campaign. In that spot, 5-Hour Energy is portrayed as improving peoples’ concentration and helping them perform better at work or play. Monster energy drink also may have contributed to the sector boost by introducing Muscle Monster energy shakes and Monster Ultra Blue, and also proposing voluntary guidelines for the marketing of energy beverages.

Buzz score by Beverage Segment

Corresponding to the improvement in the energy drinks segment, several highly caffeinated and energy drink brands make the top Buzz improvers list over the past year (comparing the most recent six months vs. the prior six months), although all remained in negative territory. The one non-energy drink brand to make the improver list, and the only one with positive scores, was the sports drink Powerade Zero. Red Bull (#2), Starbucks SBUX -0.76% Doubleshot (#3), Powerade Zero (#4) and NOS High-performance energy drink (#5) make up the top five improvers list.

Buzz: top beverage improvers

When looking at how the beverage segments (based on an average of the composite brands for each sector) are trending with current customers since the beginning of 2013, sports drinks win the day. They show a net gain of nearly 2%, and also experienced a large peak of additional customers in the summer months, when more consumers are likely to be in the market for the product.

Energy drinks and non-diet sodas are the next best performers on the list, followed by smoothies. Juices experienced a dip in spring and early summer of 2013, but have recovered to essentially remain flat.

Tea and coffee, on the other hand, reported a net decrease in current customers. And diet sodas fare the worst, with a 2% decline from the beginning of 2013 through early 2014. Over the last two months that trend has been flat, offering a perhaps a bit of encouragement for the brands in this space.

Change in Current Customer base by Beverage Segment (Average score for brands in sector)

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