Energy Drink Wars – Coke Learns a Lesson That Pepsi Has Not Learned


In light of recent news about Coca-Cola’s interest to buy Monster Energy and then later refuting their interest (link here), the energy drink category has continued to cause headlines in the beverage industry.  However, most of the noise is generated from the leaders like Red Bull, 5-Hr Energy, Monster, Rockstar, and Xyience.  Amp Energy is Pepsi’s own energy brand, while Full Throttle Energy is Coca-Cola’s home grown energy brand.  Both have languished in the category as the two refreshment manufacturers focused on other beverage categories (carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, and coconut water to name a few).   Given Coca-Cola and Pepsi’s distribution contracts with Monster and Rockstar Energy respectively, and their focus on growing other beverage categories, will Amp and Full Throttle Energy survive?

Amp Artwork Redesign - Old and NewBevReview.com has a great piece on what Amp has been up to recently (link here).  Pepsi’s own energy drink product has gone through packaging redesigns, name changes, and a re-focus on functionality.  What remains constant is the brand’s partnership with NASCAR racing.  Amp has re-positioned itself and it’s product offerings, but has not simplified its offerings – there are still seven flavors.  Given it’s varied product portfolio, Pepsi will be hard pressed to find a retailer agreeing to take in all seven flavors of its energy drink, unless Pepsi provides the retailer great profit margins.  Retailers have product buyers that determine what products are brought into the outlet, and are mandated to grow the retailer’s beverage portfolio with products that provide strong sales and high profits.  Having a product that isn’t within the top 5 selling energy drink brands, with seven flavors, poses a challenge at getting listed.  It will be tough to convince the retailer to give Amp a chance unless there are less flavors to choose from or very high margins to compensate for their lower sales velocity.  Ultimately, the buyer may tell Pepsi to pick and choose two flavors to get listed – and Pepsi would be better off having a less complicated Amp portfolio.

Full Throttle Redesign - Old and New Artwork

What about Full Throttle Energy?  BevWire previously detailed that Full Throttle was also undergoing packaging redesigns (link here).  Since that time, advertising and marketing support for Coca-Cola’s in-house energy product has diminished even more.  A quick look at their website drinkfullthrottle.com reveals a splash page with two links at the bottom, and a general link to the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association).  Visiting various Canadian grocery stores reveal that there is only one remaining flavor that is stocked regularly and that is the original Full Throttle Citrus flavor.  Gone are the Berry and Agave flavors.  Despite the change in artwork, it appears that there still has not been any support behind Full Throttle Energy; Coca-Cola instead focused on growing Nos Energy.  In this case, it would appear that Nos Energy will be replacing Full Throttle in no time.  Both Nos and Full Throttle have auto racing sponsorships like Amp, but having your brands occupy the same space and also compete against products in the exact same space is redundant.

Nos Energy 473ml Assortment

If there was a lesson to be learned here on supporting your beverage brands, it appears as if Coca-Cola has learned that lesson.  Full Throttle has gradually reduced their flavors voluntarily and focused on the core product: Full Throttle Citrus.  Even in that regard, it certainly appears that Coca-Cola will be phasing out Full Throttle completely and gradually replace it with Nos Energy.  Nos Energy was previously only available in 650ml (22oz) cannisters but has expanded its 473ml (16oz) offerings in addition to expanding its flavors.  Pepsi does not appeared to have learned the same lesson as their main competitor.  Should Amp Energy remain competitive, Pepsi must support the beverage more than just re-skinning and renaming the products.

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