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Makers of 5-hour Energy shot launching new drink at Las Vegas show

Updated October 4, 2021 - 3:57 pm

The company that makes the ubiquitous 5-hour Energy shot is launching a new beverage designed to compete with the likes of Monster Beverage and Red Bull.

Living Essentials, the firm behind 5-hour Energy, announced Monday in Las Vegas that its latest product will be a 16-ounce carbonated version of its energy shot and that the Las Vegas market will be among the first to see the new drink on store shelves. Customers should be able to see the product in stores nationwide in about nine months, according to the company.

Manoj Bhargava, founder and CEO of Living Essentials, said it made sense to introduce the product in Las Vegas during the National Beer Wholesalers Association annual convention at Caesars Palace.

“When you come to Vegas, the last thing you want to do is waste time sleeping,” Bhargava said. “People say, ‘I want to stay up and enjoy myself, not nod off or sleep.’ So Vegas is the perfect place … and a lot of the distributors from the beer show are our wholesalers and customers.”

Growth opportunity

With its carbonated energy drink, Living Essentials also is entering a market that’s expected to see more growth compared to the energy shot segment, according to a May report from research firm Mintel.

It reported energy shot drinks declined 5.1 percent in 2020, adding that it was a declining category prior to the pandemic “and the segment is projected to fall even further given the slow recovery” of in-store traffic and increased competition. Meanwhile, energy drink sales are expected to reach nearly $20 billion in five years.

Mintel analyst Caleb Bryant said a focus on functionality can help spur sales for energy drink makers as more brands enter the market.

“Energy drinks can remain competitive by prioritizing flavor innovation and creating new products that address the functional needs of core category consumers,” he said.

Focused on functionality

And functionality is a word Bhargava repeatedly emphasized when describing the company’s new carbonated energy drink.

The billionaire, who signed the Giving Pledge in 2012 to give away most of his wealth to charity and is head of Billions in Change, said his focus was perfecting the product’s taste and ensuring it was effective.

“We’re functional whereas the other guys are just a lifestyle brand … which is why hundreds of people that have come into this space are no longer here because it was all a bunch of marketing,” he said.

The company’s carbonated drink, also called 5-hour Energy, has zero sugar and will be offered in berry, grape and watermelon flavors, which are the most popular flavors of the 5-hour energy shot. It contains about the same amount of caffeine as a 12-ounce cup of premium coffee, according to the company, and will cost $3.99.

Bhargava said the 16-ounce beverage tastes and smells less like a chemical concoction compared with other energy drinks and tastes closer to a slightly stronger flavored sparkling water.

“We were able to make it taste light with no backend flavor. … All of these drinks, I don’t think their CEOs have ever actually tried them because if you did you would say, ‘Wait a minute, we need to improve this thing.’”

And it’s a thought his company itself had in the early days of launching its 5-hour Energy shot in 2004. Bhargava said strong would be a polite way of describing the shot’s initial taste, saying it was more “like bad cough syrup” before the company set out to improve the taste over the course of several years.

Getting the taste right

He said the company’s experience with improving the taste of its 5-hour Energy shot helped it refine the taste of its latest product.

“We got really good at making (5-hour Energy shot) better and better,” said Bhargava. “When we get to a big drink, well, you’ve got water, you’ve got carbonation and you’ve got the cold temperature — you can almost make anything taste good. So we found that the adjustments (needed) were slight. Everybody thought it tasted really good.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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