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CSNews Exclusive: Is The Energy Craze Showing Signs of Fatigue?

NEW YORK -- As sales of energy drinks and shots spiked in the last few years, product makers of all stripes rushed to market with energy claims. From Butterfinger Buzz to JOLT Hyper-Caffeinated gum, confection marketers big and small have looked to cash in on consumer's infatuation with energy products. It seems, however, the strength of "energy" may not extend to the candy or snack shelf.

The energy confectionery and snack segments have been "up and down," noted Bernard Pacyniak, editor-in-chief of Candy Industry magazine, based in Deerfield, Ill. "There's been some consolidation."

These products are difficult to track and sales not easy to analyze because the market is stratified by channel, to a degree, from mainstream grocers and convenience stores, to health and natural food outlets and Internet sites. Plus the word "energy" is put on items as diverse as caffeine-infused to chews to bars packed with vitamins and more wholesome sources of energy, from outright candy to functional foods taking a snack form, he said.

There were 27 energy gum and mints launched in the United States last year (compared to 440 energy drinks SKUS and 260 energy shot SKUS) in 2009, according to Vicky McCrorie, an independent market analyst for Datamonitor.

"Manufacturers aren't seeing a huge potential in energy candy and snacks," she said. "The popularity of energy hasn't really extended to other products. A big drawback in the energy market is the taste. Caffeine can make things taste bitter."

Not that the energy confection and snack category is totally moribund. Frank Davoli, director of sales and marketing for Richmond-Master Distributors Inc., based in South Bend, Ind., said he has pre-booked some products, like energy mints.

"We see the national numbers of some items doing well, but they are not working out too well around here," he said.

Some of the bigger brands associated with energy include Breath Savers Energy Mints with caffeine, Clif Bar Shot Roks and Jelly Belly Sports Beans. "I don't think they are skyrocketing up to the top of the category, but there is a niche, especially among the sports/iron man sort of segment or among truck drivers," Pacyniak said. "I don't think that's over yet. But there are so many other alternatives for energy for mainstream consumers."

Scott Larew, general manager, Remington Truckstop, in Remington, Ind., believes there are enough energy alternatives for his customers, too. "We no longer sell the energy pills, and we don' t sell any type of energy candy or chews. A few people have called me about them, but it's not something I wanted to carry. I think the energy segment is flooded with energy drinks and shots already."

The major candy and snack makers appear to agree with that sentiment. Some of the bigger brands still associated with energy include caffeinated Breathsavers Energy Mints, Clif Bar Shot Roks and Jelly Belly Sports Beans. However, except for a few limited-edition, test market or limited-distribution exceptions, including Ice Breakers Eenrgy; Butterfinger Buzz;Snickers Marathon; and Snickers, the big candy players have not taken over the energy category.

Like the energy drink category, the snack/candy category is subject to the push/pull of consumers wanting natural energy boosts versus a caffeinated one.

"Gum and candy are excellent carriers for energy [elements]," Pacyniak said. "But I don't see energy becoming a part of the natural gum and candy mix, like oral care gum is. It would mess with the brand and the strengths."

Other big players, namely the energy drink companies, have not put their name to energy confections, either.
"Though the energy segment has weathered the recession, no one wants to bet the house on this particular segment," Pacyniak said.
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