Does anyone remember ephedra? About ten years ago one of the most popular as well as effective herbs in the industry, and sadly one of the most misused/abused, was regulated away. Whether this was good or bad policy really is a matter for historians, but the industry should be alert to the lessons that came from that time.
Energy supplements and drinks, especially those with high caffeine content are attracting a significant amount of negative media attention, and now the attention of legislators and regulators as well. The old adage that “all media, is good media” is not necessarily the truth here. Product developers and marketers should take the matter seriously and prepare to defend their positions as well as begin to look for alternative energy sources.
A distinction should be noted in natural vs. synthetic. Selling coffee, tea, or even supplements with natural sources of caffeine, will be looked at with different lenses and will not likely face the media or regulatory scrutiny coming down. On the other hand, companies selling supplements and beverages with high doses of caffeine and other stimulant compounds (not to mention DMAA), will likely be facing some tougher circumstances in the near future. This offers an opportunity for companies positioning themselves in the natural space, as well as those that accurately test and label their products.
Similarly, there will be opportunities for companies that develop new energy products, that do not necessarily rely on caffeine. Some old favorites, like ginseng, could be making a comeback. Along with new ingredients like theanine, the industry could reinvent the category with different “flavors” to energy. This is because energy means many things to many people and not all energy is the same. The industry is already doing a great job segmenting the energy category and it is very likely this trend will continue for a good time to come.