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Will energy drinks become the taste of new generation?

Energy drinks are charging at Indian youth with a volley of marketing initiatives. Will they become the taste of a new generation?

, ET Bureau|
Oct 29, 2008, 05.01 AM IST
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Since time immemorial, humans have chased the mythical elixir of life or the fabled potion of youth to add those extra springs to their steps. Now, brands are seeking to make a business out of this fixation. Enter the new and improved, version 3.0 of the elixir, or potion as you may like to call it: energy drinks. And you don���t have to be god or the blessed one to consume it.

What entered Indian stores and pubs less-than-a-decade back, in the form of Coca-Cola���s Shock and Red Bull is now making serious business sense for the later entrants. Ani Mohandas, managing director, Power Horse India, estimates the market size for energy drinks in India to be in the region of Rs 500 crore. And the year-on-year growth rate, an astounding 50%. ���The category is witnessing massive growth. Though it will take some time, it will be like the mobile phones in a few years,��� continues Mohandas.

At present retailer shelves are stocked with energy drinks that go by the names of Rhino���s, Bullet, Cloud 9 and Amway XL, apart from Red Bull and Power Horse. Coca-Cola opted out of the market in the early part of this decade but is reportedly looking at a re-entry into India ��� it has a global portfolio of five energy drink brands including Vitamin Energy that was acquired as a part of the Glaceau buy, Full Throttle Fury, Powerplay, TaB Energy and burn (Shock���s global avtaar). A Coca-Cola spokesperson does not confirm an India entry, or reentry into the category. But he does not deny it either. ���Our brand portfolio is designed to satisfy the various need states of the consumers ��� hydration, energy, enjoyment or simply having fun. We are looking at a wide variety of beverage opportunities including energy drinks, sports drinks, flavoured water, juice etc.,��� he says.

Coca-Cola���s global rival PepsiCo however confirms that SoBe Adrenaline Rush, its energy offering, will be launched in India a few months from now. Sucheta Govil, executive director & VP - Innovation, PepsiCo India, says, ���India is a young country and energy is one of the important consumer needs of its youth.��� SoBe will be launched initially in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and will be priced at Rs 75 for a 245 ml can and will debut in modern trade and on-premise outlets apart from being supported by point-of-sale promotions and sampling offers, she adds.

Before PepsiCo carpet-bombs the category with its marketing spiel, the smaller players are using a host of below-the-line and above-the-line initiatives to connect with the consumers.

Direct marketer, Amway has decided to do what it���s best at ��� stick to its direct selling route for Amway XL and sell the product using its huge agent base. Deepali Shukla, senior marketing manager, Nutrition & Wellness, Amway India explains, ���We will be educating all our ABOs (Amway Business Owners) about Amway XL. To sell Amway XL they will need to enrol themselves in our Institutional Customer���s Programme which caters to restaurant, pubs etc.��� At present, the Nutrition & Wellness division comprises 50% of Amway India���s turnover and Shukla is optimistic that in three to four years, Amway XL will make up for 10% of the business division.

Power Horse, which has a 22% share in the Rs 500-crore energy drinks market and is the number two behind market leader Red Bull, banks on the power of both modern trade and institutional sales for its 60-city presence across India. While the HoReCa (Hotel, Restaurant and Catering) part of business contributes 60% to Power Horse���s revenues, the remaining 40% comes from modern retail. ���Organised retail is very important for us. Future Group is one of our strong partners and we are consistently looking at improving our presence there,��� says Mohandas. Meanwhile, newest entrant Cloud 9 has been bombarding the outdoor space with ads on bus shelters and events coupled with free sampling and sales promotion. ���We are covering wine shops, pubs and discos as well as modern trade to reach customers,��� says Rajesh K Singh, president-marketing, Cloud 9.

To appeal to young adults in the age-group of 15-35 years, Cloud 9 has roped in ace bowler R P Singh as its brand ambassador, while the drink was launched in Mumbai by Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty. Says Singh, ���RP Singh is a young and energetic face of the Indian cricket team and hence we decided he was the right choice for our brand.��� PepsiCo���s SoBe is also aiming at similar things. Apart from targeting the 24-year plus urban youth, a lot of its marketing activities will be ���driven by availability, product visibility through sampling at both on and off premise in happening places,��� says Govil.

As the awareness of ingredients in energy drinks is also raising a lot of hell world-over, the new brands are also trying to create the differentiation on the basis of ingredients. While Amway XL is available in citrus blast and tropical blast flavours, Cloud 9 has natural ingredients like Guarana and Ginseng with pomegranate juice. ���There is a lot of misconception about energy drinks in the market, but that will fade away with time. We provide clear label instructions about who can and who cannot consume our drink,��� says Mohandas of Power Horse. Sadly, even the new elixir comes with conditions attached.
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