US brands gearing up for marketing assaults on the UK’s fast-growing energy and sports drinks market may find themselves “too American-sounding” and lose their fizz when confronted with established domestic players.
DD Beverage Company is being forced to change the name of its Canadian energy drink Beaver Buzz for fear of offending UK consumers (MW last week). Observers suggest it brings into question the cross-Atlantic appeal of such drinks.
Beaver Buzz, Rockstar, Monster and PepsiCo’s sports drink Gatorade are among those bidding to knock Red Bull and GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Lucozade off their perches as dominant players in a sector which is set to grow from about £770m in 2006 to £800m by the end of the year, according to Mintel.
Scottish drinks company AG Barr has signed a five-year deal to supply Rockstar, which claims to be the strongest energy drink on the market with big-kick ingredient milk thistle.
Meanwhile, Monster has found favour with US customers owing to a larger can size than Red Bull. Gatorade, which is sold mostly through leisure outlets, is attempting to extend its distribution across major supermarkets. Monster is being launched in the UK by former Red Bull UK brand director Guy Carling (MW August 2).
All three will have significant market spend to back their UK rollouts. However, one retail analyst says: “Too many of these American brands are brash. Reading the ingredients of some of them is like a horror story and UK consumers may not accept it.” Another comments: “Gatorade is too American sounding for the UK market”.
Rockstar upped its caffeine levels this year in most markets, and points to its US success, where it is the third top selling and claims to be the fastest growing.
Similarly, PepsiCo can point to the success of Gatorade in the US along with a track record of successfully launching soft drinks brands in the UK.
An image for the UK
Barr commercial director Jonathan Kemp says: “Taste is at the heart of Rockstar’s proposition. Its core equity is as a party brand.” He says Barr will advise Rockstar on marketing and there will be differences from the US proposition. Zenith International analyst Jenny Foulds says Rockstar is likely to launch in its current packaging format but “may be forced to change and look for a cleaner image”.
All face the uphill task of grabbing market share from GSK, Red Bull and Coca-Cola, whose drinks include Relentless and Burn. GSK has maintained a lead in the sector with its iconic Lucozade brand, which has reinvented itself over the years. It introduced Lucozade Energy to tap into the stimulant energy market and has also added Lucozade Sport with Caffeine Boost.
Lucozade category marketing director Simon Kemp says that brand provenance is key. “We have a portfolio of offerings which has broadened over time.” He also says success is down to changing the way it reaches its target market, with a heavy emphasis on experiential and digital marketing.
Late entry Lucozade has been manufactured in the UK for nearly 80 years and was rebranded as an energy drink in the early 1980s by Ogilvy & Mather. Kemp argues the challengers will suffer coming late to market. He adds: “Across the sector credibility and authenticity is key. A lot of the new entrants are more fashion brands. Gatorade is massive in the US but is coming late to the market.” However, the UK is the biggest energy market across Europe and energy and sports drinks are no longer niche products but part of the mainstream. It may not be long before the controversially named energy brands Pimp Juice and Pitt Bull will be crossing the Atlantic.