Within the last few years, we have seen the dawning of a new era for energy drinks. Welcome to the age of the premium, high-performance, highly functional energy drink. With marquee brands like Bang, CELSIUS, Reign, C4, GFuel, A-Shoc, Gamer Fuel, and Amino Energy ushering in the segment, we are witnessing growth of the likes that the energy category has not seen in decades. Bang alone went from $345 million in sales in the Spring of 2019 to over $1.1 billion in just one year! (Source: BevNET) But perhaps an even more significant opportunity exists a little deeper within this category. Let's dig deeper into the world of esports and the global gaming audience.
Gamers: An influential consumer-base with tremendous purchasing power
Don't sleep on esports – Gaming is far more popular than we give it credit. To put things into perspective— In a COVID stricken time, the world eagerly awaited the return of sports, and a few weeks back, Major League Baseball made its 2020 season debut. According to ESPN, the MLB saw a record-high 4 million views, up 232% from last year. Yet, there was another event happening around that time worth noting. A popular YouTube channel, PewDiePie, had a gaming Livestream that produced over 4.7 million views while playing the video game Ghost of Tsushima. While it never made news, and generally wouldn't be in the same realm as America's past time, the fact is that gaming and esports provide some of the most widely watched and interactive environments. So, there you have it, an attractive, highly influential consumer base, that is grossly undervalued.
Gamers fit an ideal consumer profile and have tremendous purchasing power. While one might be inclined to think 'video games = younger kids,' the reality is that the age range stretches well beyond the youth. Over a third of all Gamers are over 34 years old, and 47% of them are now parents (Source: Think With Google). Meanwhile, the group most likely to consume food or beverages while playing is male gamers aged 21-35 (Source: NewZoo Research). Considering that video games, their systems, subscriptions, etc. are not cheap, we can surmise that this demographic has disposable income. With a greater incentive to purchase products online, adult gamers are ideal for many brands seeking to target this audience.
Gamers not only play games but also watch other gamers play. And unlike traditional sports, esports isn't consumed on cable TV, so the audience is more than meets the eye. Game related content accounts for hundreds of millions of viewers on YouTube and Twitch. Two of the top five YouTube channels worldwide feature gaming content (Source: YouTube Data). Also, the potential for brand exposure is significantly multiplied in esports compared to other sports. Gamers typically play in long four to six-hour sessions and often eat and drink during gameplay.
Ingredients and their supportive attributes
Think about the top functional categories esports commands: focus, concentration, energy, eye health (for screen time), relaxation/adaptogens (for sitting still many hours), improved reflexes, enhanced memory recall, etc. It is easy for modern consumers of any type to relate to these benefits, even outside of gaming. Hence, there is ample opportunity for category crossover, which is key to any niche market.
The most notable innovations, interestingly enough, focus equally on improving packaging as they do on enhancing gamer performance. The gamer audience is keen to give feedback, and beverage manufacturers have responded by designing textured cans for better grip, resealable tops for extended use, and formulating products using highly functional, branded ingredients for improved efficacy. These characteristics add costs but are key indicators that give clues to the category – Gamers are attracted to more premium, high-level products. Accordingly, the ingredients that you target must align with that expectation.
"As a functional ingredient supplier, we have seen considerable interest in our energy and cognitive function ingredients for gaming," explains John Kathrein Ingredient Coordinator at Applied Food Sciences. "Our organic caffeine solutions in PurCaf® (from organic green coffee) and PurTea® (from organic green tea) are great starting points because they contribute to the desirable clean label and premium energy appeal. But we are also continuously inspiring the category by conducting additional studies on our other, more cognitive focused ingredients such as AmaTea organic guayusa."
One of the most exciting offerings geared towards gaming is AmaTea®, a patented ingredient consisting of a unique blend of caffeine and polyphenol antioxidants. In partnership with the University of Memphis College of Health Sciences, AFS has funded a study investigating the impact of functional ingredients on gaming performance. The current study aims to compare AmaTea® on various measures of cognitive performance, mood, motivation, and overall gaming achievement. The investigators hypothesize that both AmaTea and caffeine will improve outcome measures more than placebo, with a considerable improvement expected for AmaTea® due to the particular antioxidant makeup.
To learn more about AmaTea® organic guayusa extract or other functional ingredients from AFS, please visit appliedfoods.com or call 1-800-345-9666.