It used to be people tossed back a shot to forget. Now they drink to remember.
The difference between then and now is that the latter group is after a spectrum of functional benefits that range from relaxation to mental acuity. The beverages themselves — typically packaged in small, 2-ounce bottles — are finally moving out of vitamin shops and convenience stores and into full-sized supermarkets.
“The shots are viewed by consumers as a new hybrid,” said Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark Consulting, Buellton, Calif. “They are still looked upon to provide fast energy but beyond that, they are being viewed by growing numbers of consumers, across a wide demographic profile, as health and wellness supplements. In other words, they are perceived to deliver immediate effects but also supply what daily vitamin and mineral pills supply.”
Shots grew up among larger energy drinks, though today they are considered a separate category by the beverage industry. Experts note that a 16-ounce energy drink is more geared toward overall refreshment, while the smaller shots target a specific purpose.
Consumers seem to understand the distinction. A recent Mintel report profiling the energy drink category found that energy shots are the fastest-growing segment, with sales increasing 146% to $165 million in food-drug-mass channel between 2008-10.
“The segment has benefited from consumers' desire for an energy boost that is less filling and has less sugar,” the report stated.
In supermarkets alone, energy drink sales grew 6.5% to $703 million during 2008-10, helped by the availability of multipacks, which have offered retailers stronger opportunities for promotional and value pricing, especially during the recession.
Shots present their own merchandising challenges, however. Their small size means they have to be displayed where consumers can see them — and store associates can keep an eye on them. Checkouts are the dominant location, though Pirko notes others are just as effective.
“They are rapidly migrating into other parts of the store including, in multipacks, to the vitamin/over-the-counter medicine shelves,” he said. “Check out Costco. It has shots stacked high at the front entrance of the store. Hard to miss.”
Mintel cautions that the entire energy drink category is in danger of stalling as stubborn price barriers and, more recently, health and safety concerns, cut into growth. According to Mintel's consumer survey findings for this report, about 40% of those who don't consume energy drinks feel these drinks are unsafe.
“If marketers provide second-generation products that provide energy and are made with better-for-you ingredients, safety concerns could be reduced, resulting in sales growth,” the report stated.
In that context, liquid shots may be ideally situated to address those issues.