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Energy, sports drinks defy economic gloom

Sales of sports and energy drinks in the UK are set to hit £1 billion \[$1.6bn\] this year, according to Mintel.

The category was worth £941 million last year, up 10% on 2007, said Mintel, which predicted sales would defy the economic gloom to post a further rise of 6.3% this year.

Sales grew 51% between 2004 and 2008, and would increase by another 48% over the next five years to reach £1.5 billion, said the market analyst.

Jonny Forsyth, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, said: "Unlike other markets such as smoothies, which were seeing impressive growth until the recession arrived, sports and energy drinks have continued to grow their value. Cash-squeezed consumers are viewing these products as value for money rather than a luxury, which stands in contrast to smoothies and bottled water, both of which have suddenly seen growth reverse."

However, said Forsyth, despite the recent boost in sales, only a third of the population actually used sports and energy drinks, a figure which had remained static over the past five years. There had been a failure to grow penetration of sports and energy drinks in the UK, he said. Instead, the market had succeeded by increasing frequency of drinking among young male converts.

"The challenge for the industry going forward is to grow its user base by successfully targeting females, 35-54 year olds and workers," said Forsyth. "This means increasingly stealing share from carbonates and bottled water, in particular. The problem is that energy drinks appeal most to the physically active and men aged between 15 and 34 do more exercise than anyone else. A more mainstream opportunity lies in targeting mental rather than physical energy."

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