Special Report

America's Most Popular Energy Drinks

monster energy drinkThe energy drink business has grown from a niche market to a multibillion one in a short time. Red Bull sold more than $3.3 billion worth of energy drinks in 2012 in the U.S. Its major rival, Monster, sold more than $3 billion that year.

Several other energy drinks racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in total sales last year. Based on data from SymphonyIRI Group, a marketing intelligence firm, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most popular energy drinks by total sales.

Click here to see the most popular energy drinks

The energy beverage market is dominated by two brands — Red Bull and Monster — and they continue to grow. Year-over-year, those companies increased their sales by nearly 14% and 18%, respectively. Two main factors have been driving their growth, and the growth of the energy drink industry as a whole.

First, the companies have reached out to a wider overall demographic in recent years. In the first five years of energy drinks’ prominence in the market, men constituted about 85% of the consumers, said Darin Ezra, CEO of Power Brands Consulting, which works with the beverage industry. Now, about 30% of the consumers are women. This is due in part to the fact that companies have been aggressively marketing sugar-free and flavored drinks.

However, marketing is still predominantly targeted towards young men. Endorsements of athletes in traditionally male-dominated sports like mixed martial arts, motocross and snowboarding illustrate this fact.

The second factor driving the growth is due to the changing demographics of the industry’s original consumers. When the beverages first became popular, Ezra noted, the industry was primarily targeting teenagers and college students. Now, energy drink companies have been able to retain those initial customers while courting new younger buyers into the market.

The two largest beverage companies, Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) and PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP), have not had a great deal of success in the energy drink segment. Coca-Cola’s Full Throttle accounts for just 1.28% of the energy drink market. Pepsi’s two top-selling Amp products account for just over 3% of the market.

Fortunately for those two companies, energy drinks have not been much of a replacement for soft drinks, Ezra said. He added that the drinks definitely have not cannibalized on sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade.

“An energy drink is not a refreshment,” he said. “Think about it: Would you have an energy drink with your hamburger?” Rather, these energy drinks have been a replacement for morning coffee. Ezra pointed out that more energy drinks are bought between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. than at any other time during the day.

These energy drinks have come under fire recently due to alleged adverse health effects. According to a study released last week by the American Heart Association, energy drinks can increase blood pressure and over time can disrupt the natural rhythm of the heart. In late 2012, the Food and Drug Administration released dozens of reports of death or injury that cited different energy drinks.

Despite the bad press, some in the industry remain optimistic. Ezra said the coverage has not and probably will not make a dent in sales. In fact, it may actually help. “The fact that the authorities are pushing the extreme potency of these product, if anything, it reinforces the fact that it works,” he said.

Nevertheless, companies such as Monster and Rockstar are making changes to their marketing to limit disclosure of potential adverse health effects that may be linked to their products.

Both companies have moved away from marketing their products as a dietary supplements, categorizing them as beverages instead. The change will allow the companies to sidestep guidelines requiring disclosure of information to the federal government that could link its products with illness, injury or even death.

In a statement from the company last week, Monster argued that the move was made, among other reasons, to allow people who use food stamps to purchase these products — the federal government prohibits using food stamps to buy dietary supplements.

Based on data from SymphonyIRI, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the top 20 selling energy drinks in the U.S. during the 52 weeks ending February 24, 2013, by brand. Ranking on total sales, we then identified the most popular drink sold under each of the seven brands that make the top 20. Unless otherwise noted, all sales numbers are for the largest drink sold by each brand. These 20 drinks comprised approximately 95% of all energy can drink sales (excluding energy shots). In addition to total sales, we also considered the number of units sold of the product, as well as the change in sales from the previous year, with all data provided by SymphonyIRI. Caffeine and sugar content figures were provided by Energy Fiend.

These are the most popular energy drinks in America.

7. Xenergy
> Total sales: $44.19 million
> Pct. change: +11.21%
> Parent company: Xyience

Xyience, which makes Xenergy, is a Las Vegas-based company that was founded in 2004. Xenergy became the official drink of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The basic drink is available in eight different flavors, and the company also produces mixed drinks such as Xenergy + Tea Honey Ginseng and Raspberry Acai. While Xenergy’s sales are up by 11.2% in the past 52 weeks, and it is still among the top 20 energy drinks. It only accounts for 0.54% of market share. Xenergy is notable for not containing any sugar.

6. Full Throttle
> Total sales: $105.07 million
> Pct. change: -0.61%
> Parent company: Coca-Cola Co.

Full Throttle, owned by Coca-Cola, has sold just more than $100 million worth of the beverage in the past 52 weeks, taking up a much smaller market share than the parent company’s other energy brand, NOS, which sold more than $250 million. Introduced in 2004, a 16-oz. can of the product has 200 mg of caffeine and 58 grams of sugar.

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5. Amp
> Total sales: $181.68 million
> Pct. change: +0.82%
> Parent company: PepsiCo Inc.

PepsiCo’s main chip in the energy drink game, Amp, comes in three different varieties: Boost, Focus and Active. Celebrities endorsing Amp include NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., Olympic snowboarder Scotty Lago and mixed martial artist Urijah Faber. Amp sold 91 million units in the past 52 weeks, and the vitamin-enriched Amp Boost 39 million.

4. NOS
> Total sales: $266.3 million
> Pct. change: +6.03%
> Parent company: Coca-Cola Co.

The other major energy drink owned by Coca-Cola is NOS, which sold more than 125 million units in the past 12 months. Sales have grown by roughly 9% over that period, making NOS one of the fastest-growing energy drinks. A 16-oz. can has 54 grams of sugar, as well as 260 mg of caffeine, which is a higher caffeine content than any of the other flagship beverages on this list.

3. Rockstar
> Total sales: $324.62 million
> Pct. change: +8.81%
> Parent company: Rockstar International

Rockstar is available in more than 20 different flavors, ranging from Green Apple to Lemonade to Mocha. Many of the drinks Rockstar offers are sugar free and have only 10 calories. The drink is sold in 30 different countries. According to data released in 2012 by the FDA, the drink was cited in 13 different reports of adverse health effects since 2006. None of these citations involved death. Sales of the original Rockstar are up by nearly 9% year-over-year and accounted for approximately 39% of the brand’s total sales. Other Rockstar drinks include Rockstar Punched, which has grown 21.3% in sales year-over-year.

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2. Monster Energy Drink
> Total sales: $1.90 billion
> Pct. change: +10.77%
> Parent company: Monster Beverage Corp.

According to reports released by the FDA in October, as many as five people have passed away over the past three years after consuming Monster Energy. One of those deaths was a 14-year old Maryland girl who passed in December 2011 due to “caffeine toxicity” after consuming Monster, according to autopsy and medical examiner reports. The company contends, after an internal investigation, that the drinks played no role in the death. Monster shares fell last week after a study found that energy drinks may increase blood pressure and disrupt a normal heart rhythm. The company’s main branded product is by far its biggest seller, at nearly $1.9 billion in the past 52 weeks. The company has seven other products in the top 20-selling energy drinks, including its Monster Rehab drink, which has sold close to 170 million units in the past 12 months.

1. Red Bull
> Total sales: $3.18 billion
> Pct. change: +7.93%
> Parent company: Red Bull North America Inc.

Red Bull is the most popular brand of energy drink in the country, with sales of the brand totaling about $3.35 billion in 2012. The company uses a host of marketing strategies, including sponsorship of sports teams, along with cars with a large Red Bull can on top. The drink has had its share of controversy. In November 2012, the FDA released 21 injury reports that mentioned Red Bull. In the past 52 weeks, the main Red Bull drink accounted for 38.8% of all energy drink sales, with the entire brand having nearly 41% market share.

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