Daisy Li
Daisy is an Associate Director with the Mintel Food & Drink team, speciliasing in the China market. She monitors and reports on the latest innovation and trends impacting the Chinese food and drink market.

According to Mintel estimates, the energy drinks market in China has been experiencing explosive growth in recent years. However, it is still lagging behind other global energy drink markets. In fact, Chinese consumers’ volume consumption of energy drinks is only slightly over a tenth of that of US consumers, showing great potential for the category to grow further in the coming years.

Today, Chinese consumers are leading increasingly fast-paced lifestyles and more and more Chinese companies have started to adopt longer working hours. As a result, consumers are in need of food and drink products that help them refuel energy and get through their intensive work schedule.

Indeed, energy drinks have great potential in this area as they are seen as a solution that can help with busy and hectic lifestyles by boosting energy levels, for instance.

However, concerns over energy drinks are impeding the development of the category in China. According to Mintel research, Chinese consumers think that sports drinks contain too many artificial additives, are concerned about the side effects caused by functional drinks, and find energy drinks too sweet. As such, players in the market are challenged to overcome these barriers.

Natural ingredients offer more appeal

Mintel Trend ‘Bannedwagon’ highlights how consumers’ interest in natural, organic and non-processed products is rising, and this interest applies to energy drinks. Mintel research shows that 43% of Chinese consumers want energy drinks that are made with natural ingredients. A more natural energy drink may resonate with consumers given its healthy appeal. Uni-President, for instance, relaunched its plant-based energy drink Gou Ran earlier this year, having spotted consumers’ need for a natural and healthy energy drink.

Unif Power in Nature Plant-Based Energy Drink, China
This plant-based energy drink contains green coffee bean extract, ginseng and vitamin B for a natural boost, and does not contain taurine or other artificial ingredients.

Brain Füd Citrus & Mint Natural Energy Drink, UK
This energy drink is described as a naturally-flavoured still water with real fruit juices, natural sweeteners, vitamins, electrolytes and natural caffeine from guarana. The product is free from anything artificial and added sugar.

Taking inspiration from traditional recipes

Traditional or ancient recipes offer another source of inspiration for creating healthy and natural energy drinks. For example, ingredients from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) such as ginseng, astragalus and ganoderma are all known for boosting energy from the inside out. There are opportunities to modernise these traditional or ancient recipes into energy drinks that provide consumers with a natural energy boost.

CJ CheilJedang Hanppuri Iced Red Ginseng Drink, South Korea
This product is described as an original healthy red ginseng energy drink. It contains herb extract made with nine traditional Korean ingredients, and pear to reduce bitterness.

Ito En Matcha Love Organic Unsweetened Matcha + Ginger Drink, Vietnam
This energy drink features a modern take on an ancient recipe. It is formulated with matcha, which is said to provide a gentle energy boost and mental clarity.

Natural drinks to enter the energy drink space

As energy drinks go natural, there are also opportunities for natural drinks entering the energy drink space. The juice category, for instance, can consider leveraging herbal or fruit ingredients as a natural energy boost to mitigate the category’s recent decline. Juice brands can consider entering the functional space based on the category’s association with naturalness and health. In addition, juices are already perceived as a natural source for nutrition, vitamins and fibre, which can drive consumers’ interest for purchasing.

Boost Energy Lift Juice, Singapore
Featuring an energy claim, this juice product comprises pear, orange, mango, pineapple and apple and is described as a bang-on juicy juice that contains no added sugar, preservatives, artificial colours, flavours or concentrates.

Innocent Berry Set Go Juice, Ireland
This product is a blend of fruit and vegetable juices. It is high in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, contributing to normal energy-yielding metabolism. It also contains vitamin C which can help reduce tiredness and fatigue.