The Energy Drink Segment is Evolving – Naturally!

Energy Drink Category Continues to Surge
The energy drink subcategory is bursting with opportunity and growth, +21% in dollar sales from last year (IRI, 52 weeks ending 10/3/2021). Brands like Alani Nu, Rowdy Energy, Xyience, Bang, and Celsius are stiffening the competition against the big brands that once dominated the category by offering new clean ingredient benefits to consumers.



Both Alani Nu and Celsius energy drinks give consumers a 200mg boost of caffeine with 0G of sugar


Rowdy Energy Drinks not only provide consumers with a beverage option made with all-natural ingredients but also with a specialty electrolyte blend and wellness-boosting nootropic ingredients like l-theanine in some SKUs


quote_1As current energy drink brands and emerging players formulate to differentiate, product developers and brand managers should consider using bright color from natural sources to stand apart from the crowd. Sensient’s extensive data on the value of color even indicates that vivid color increases purchase intent and flavor perception too, making it a win-win opportunity.

Brands marketing around taste should highly consider the power and influence of color on consumers’ taste perception: what would Flamin’ Hot be without its infamous vibrant red hue? Can you imagine Coke or Pepsi being clear?

Do not underestimate the power of color with consumers—we eat with our eyes first after all!

Technical Considerations for Formulating with Natural Colors

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#1 pH

Formulators working with natural colors in ready-to-drink beverages like energy drinks should keep several things in mind. First, the acidity of the base has a potentially significant impact on the success of certain natural colors. Some colors love low pH levels and thrive in these environments, like anthocyanins, including Sensient’s cost-effective red Black Carrot juice. Other natural sources, like beet, wouldn’t be suggested by a color expert for a low-pH system because they won’t perform optimally like they might in a higher acidity system.

processing parameters

#2 Processing

Processing conditions or requirements can also affect natural color performance. Some natural colors degrade under the heat treatment during hot-fill, while others excel. Also, the type of color—meaning a powder versus liquid—can impact success. Sensient’s beverage color experts can help identify the most optimal natural color solution that fits your manufacturing needs, and we can even start today if you reach out to us here.

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#3 Ingredient

Developers should also be aware that not all ingredients get along with one another in the same beverage system. For example, vitamins cause interaction with some natural colors, so my team would steer you away from certain solutions based on the fortification blend being added to the beverage formulation. It is especially important to do stability testing of the natural colors in the full system, and Sensient is happy to support this critical testing — just ask us!


Innovating Naturally and Colorfully
Unleash nature’s rainbow in your next energy drink launch…


Sun Yellow:

Turmeric imparts bold yellow shades and is a popular choice for brands seeking an energetic visual boost. Although it is light sensitive, since many energy drinks are packaged in opaque cans, it’s a great choice for this category.


Golden Rays:

For warmer yellows that are stable under light exposure, Beta Carotene is a great, cost-effective option.


Citrus Orange:

Paprika is a bold orange color that has a reputation for off-notes, but Sensient’s purification technologies enable its use in beverage applications without impacting the flavor profile!


Blood Orange

For hot tropical shades, Beta Carotene can also be a strong option, presenting multiple shades from deep orange to a scarlet blood orange hue.


Just Peachy:

If your flavor is even “pinker” in the orange range, there are Beta Carotene solutions that hit peach, coral, and even pink shades!


Red Alert:

One of the most cost-effective anthocyanins in beverage applications, Black Carrot adds classic red hues to the rainbow.


Dragonfruit Pink:

Cochineal offers beverage developers a bright, almost neon pink solution. However, other pink solutions like purple sweet potato or black carrot at lower concentrations might be necessary if a plant-based label is important.


Black Cherry Maroon:

Sensient’s agronomy team is constantly working to add cost-effective options like additional varietals of Black Carrot to our portfolio, including new shade options within the same botanical family.


Purple Power:

The only US FDA-approved blue or purple compatible with high-water applications like energy drinks, Butterfly Pea Flower Extract adds rich purples to the rainbow at low pHs. In Brazil, this natural anthocyanin color has a purple to bluish hue, depending on the pH.


Rich Brown:

For caramel-free, cost-effective browns, Sienna™ carries a “fruit juice” label and Natural Brown from Malt Extract are single-component solutions for shades from light brown to deep chocolates.



If your brand is seeking a more unique hue, my team loves working on exclusive custom blends.

Ready to get started? Schedule a consultation today.

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