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Patterns - a series of professional observations about package design practices within specific product categories

Energy Drinks

About Patterns

Patterns is a series of professional observations about package design practices within specific product categories - brought to you by the design team at R.BIRD.

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Combined into a 220-page full-color Paperback or PDF: All 11 reports, including this one, have been updated with new observations, image galleries, brand and keyword indexes.

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You can still read the original reports here online FREE, but these reports do not include the updates.


Featured in this report:

01 - Overview


Our observations include some of the brands and categories shown above.

02 - Environment


Energy drinks are primarily sold in cold cases, one at a time, alongside other "grab-n-go" beverages like Gatorade, sodas, and bottled water. A few brands can be found warm on national supermarket shelves, but you might have to travel to a nutritional supply store such as GNC to find them in bulk.

03 - Structure


The quintessential 6.3 FL oz. container used by Red Bull is by far the most common product form in the category. A few brands sell in oversized 16 oz. cans (Monster Energy) or use structural gimmicks (Extreme Energy "Shot") to stand out from the crowded 6.3 FL oz. space.

Response: There are reasons why the 6.3 oz. can is so popular with energy drinks. easy to grab, quick to drink down, more of them fit on a rack, and the smaller scale gives the impression that the contents are more concentrated.

That said, subtle variations (short of gimmickry) in form - an hour glass shape, for example - might be an appropriate way to gain some distance from the field while retaining the benefits mentioned above.

04 - Color


Red Bull owns red/blue/silver, while others rely on a combination of acidic greens and yellows, black, and the aluminum finish of the can to convey a sense of energy and high performance.

Response: The green/black areas of the category are pretty well spoken for. There appears to be more opportunity for differentiation on the red side of the spectrum, a curiously obvious choice for "active" or "dangerous" metaphors.

05 - Parental Branding


Many brands in the category rely on the recognition of a parent brand for some level of legitimacy. Amp is marketed as a Mountain Dew product when, in fact, Mountain Dew is a Pepsi Co. brand. Associating Amp with Mountain Dew rather than Pepsi Cola may help reach a more active or "alternative" consumer.

Response: Making the link with a parent brand can lend a level of credibility to a new or unfamiliar product and help bring a targeted group of like-minded consumers into the fold. Be certain the child brand shares a similar visual language as its parent to avoid confusing the very consumer you're trying to leverage.

06 - Hyperculture


Energy drinks are not for your grandparents. Rather, they're often geared towards a thrill-craved, hyperactive youth culture whose primary mission is to "get their rocks" off legally (see Monster Energy target consumer, left).

Response: While the majority of energy drinks sport youthful (teenage) graphics and visual themes, an opportunity exists to reach a wider group of consumers wanting an alternative to coffee. Red Bull is one such brand that we feel does a good job of visually appealing to a more broad demographic.

07 - Autoshop Influence


Intentional or not, there are distinct similarities between energy drinks and auto shop products.

Response: When borrowing the design vernacular from a different category, don't forget that people ultimately have to want to drink the product. Elements Energy drink (right) does a nice job of towing the line between a high performance "fuel additive" approach and flavor appeal.

08 - Monsters & Aliens


Monsters, aliens, spacecraft, and evil beasts are recurring themes in the energy drink category. Monsters have long been the figment of an active imagination. Throughout history, they have served as symbols for the outsider, feared for being different and challenging the status quo.

Response: The "monster" angle can be a powerful tie-in with a counterculture demographic. Though Monster Energy brand (left) gets kudos for boldness and clarity, we think there is ample opportunity for richly different and imaginative conceptions of monsters.

09 - Other Dangerous Things


Raging bulls, unnaturally red crocodiles, man-eating fish, rattlesnakes, poisonous venom, acidic fire baths, and rockets portend life threatening danger, high anxiety, and unnerving intersections with pain.

Response: The drink cooler is a crowded place. Alternatives are just a few inches away. The trick is to appeal to the "thrill jockey" inside the consumer without scaring them to a less threatening alternative. Again, Red Bull does well in towing the line between attraction and repulsion.

10 - Resemblance: AA Bateries


KMX and Blast energy drinks and AA batteries. How do you say portable power source?

Response: Every consumer carries a range of experiences with them when they encounter your product. A series of visual cues, carefully planned, can trigger associations with other products that express similar ideas.

11 - Resemblance: Skateboards


Jones Energy drink and a skateboard. If you ride the deck on the right, what would you drink? So would we.

Response: An effective way to appeal to your target consumer is to borrow the visual vocabulary from a product they may already be familiar with. Of course, it's important not to infringe on another brand's trade dress or copyrighted artworks in the process.

12 - Flavor is a Mystery


Flavor is a mystery in many brands. Compared to a typical juice offering, there is little or nothing about energy drink packaging to tell the consumer what the product tastes like. Instead, the graphic emphasis is more on the consumer's sensibilities and attitude than flavor or thirst.

Response: Even a modest effort to describe or symbolize flavor can go a long way to attracting new or tentative consumers. It would also open up the possibility of expanding the line with multiple flavors to meet different tastes, even different consumers and "attitudes" altogether.

13 - Point of Sale Displays


Red Bull is front and center when it comes to unique POS displays. They not only offer their product in convenient kiosks stacked with 4 packs, but they also provide well branded coolers for individual sale right at the register or by the front door.

Response: If you want to stand apart from the crowd, then sometimes the best solution is to literally stand apart from it. There is no competition inside the Red Bull standing cooler. And the consumer doesn't have to walk up to the ice box to find the product. They can see it all the way from the parking lot.


On November 4 Niels Welten said...

Nice site. I got here by way of https://www.mediafact.nl/comments.php?id=10335_0_1_0_C

Maybe you guys should also look at the design of Dutch energy drink Enorm (www.enorm.com)

On November 10 Nathan Jones said...

Very Useful. Thanks a million

On November 11 Stephanie said...

What do you suggest about teens that o.d. on these drinks there have been several hosptialized in my area and the doctors have told us about youths dying from too much of this stuff?

On November 18 Vince said...

I wonder what you would say about
www.xtazyenergy.com . In my opinion, the sleekest out there. It’s the first I’ve ever tried, and honestly, only did so because of the packaging and the fact that they offer actual flavors. But then again, I’m 29, not 15. I’d feel like a retard walking around with most of these other brands.

On January 9 CF2 said...

take a look at
XS Energy. Number two best selling in the country and not sold in stores!

Number one in Australia!


On March 19 LES said...

You guys should take a look at XS energy drink. No mystery flavor here, theres 6 of them. Each flavor is great. It’s all of the energy with none of the sugar other energy drinks have. All th energy comes from a powerful punch of B Vitamins. This is the best energy drink i’ve ever had. You guys should compare it to others in this site.


On March 28 energy lover said...

um….. this info is helpin alot i need it for my collage report as a product producer (we have to send this in to get in) well i think my drink name has changed mabey 4 times well thx alot!!!!!!!! =)

On March 28 knuckle headed kid said...

hey isnt SOBE an energy drink?why didnt u name that i drink it all the time?well thanks fr the info it helped on my 6 grade report g2g seeya

On April 4 Cascabel Energy Drink said...

Hello! Your report has been very interesting. I currently work for Cascabel Energy Drink, a fast growing company now located in Texas. I am a state account executive and found this information relevant to my business. If anyone is interested in our product please visit us @ www.drinkcascabel.com and email @ cascabeltexmex@aol.com for supply information.

On April 13 normal said...

Does anyone know who designd the Stacker 2 XPLC packaging? It is the new packaging in viles. Would you please e-mail me if you can forward any info on the design firm fo the packaging. Thanks. dmstang@yahoo.com

On April 30 RELOAD - Energy drink said...

One interesting update to your excellent report would be to include two new trends : new format that stands out (not only the can but also plastic and glass bottles) and the good taste of newcomers compared to the pionners. RELOAD, energy drink, is an interesting example of those two new trends. You can have more information on www.quickreload.com or on Wikipedia at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RELOAD_%28energy_drink%29

On April 30 Fred C. said...

Actually RELOAD is also listed under “energy drink” in Wikipedia and we can see and compare their stats with others on their website. Good product, very popular in Canada and starting to grow in the USA.

On February 9 Anonymous said...

This report repeatedly says “the 6.3 FL oz. container” is “by far the most common product form in the category.”

The actual size is 8.3 fl oz. — NOT 6.3 oz.

On February 18 nolan said...

I would like to know more about any kind of ingury or health problems when drinking energy drinks. besides that you were very helpfull

On June 11 katelynn said...

oh my god i love energy drinks its like i am on them all the time and i cant stand not driking them Monster is totaly the best!!

On October 1 Mark Viteli said...

I will like to know what company in usa pakeging or bottling energy drinks in USA

On October 17 R.BIRD said...

Imagine our surprise to see the energy drink bonanza taken to a new “high” with the introduction of Blow Energy Drink.

On October 17 R.BIRD said...

Susan posted this, in response to our story on Blow Energy Drink:

“Tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks and chocolate share the same nerve toxin (stimulant), caffeine. Caffeine, which is readily released into the blood, triggers a powerful immune response that helps the body to counteract and eliminate this irritant. The toxic irritant stimulates the adrenal glands, and to some extent, the body’s many cells, to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream.”

The entire contribution can be found here

On October 23 missmason said...

These observtions are a great resource for my students who are working on a marketing assignment. I had not considered some of the ideas that are mentioned in the report

On October 26 Alejandro Escobar said...

This website was really helpful in many ways .This website ROCKS!!!!

On October 26 MirandaColeman said...

This helped me a lot and helped me do my project better!^^

On October 26 Jennifer J. said...

This website is really helpful, for our projects!

On March 7 Anonymous said...

There is a new energy drink called ShotGun and the can is awesome (a true shotgun shell complete with bullet holes) and what’s even better is the TASTE! DXL Magazine just awarded it best energy drink of 2007 and I’m glad I’m in Texas because I finally got to try one! No aftertaste and the lowest in sodium I’ve found. Maybe you should expand your E.D. breakdown to include health benefits, sodium content, vitamins, new herbals, etc. THNX!

On September 30 KABOOMROCKS said...

For all of you out there that like energy drinks, but dont like the added sugar, caffiene, taurine, high fructose corn syrup, etc., try Kaboom Infinite Energy. It is the worlds first certified organic energy juice containing Antioxidants, Vitamins, and Organic Juices. The best thing is they actually taste great! 3 flavors, Orange buzz, Tropicool, and Pomegranate Berry. Energy comes from complete B vitamin complex + folic acid, organic Guarana and organic green tea extract. These dont jack you up and then let you crash, it is a sustained, “natural” energy. They also have 2 “Wellness” blends that are awesome. In my opinion, they are the best alternative to the regular energy drinks.

On June 2 Cell Detective said...

Your are Great. And so is your site! Awesome content. Good job guys! Interesting article, adding it to my favourites!

On November 12 deb said...

i heard theres a new energy drink coming to Australia “Hollow Fox”………..BRING IT ON !!!!

On April 21 sarah said...

very useful….good for my report….thanks a lot!

On September 20 biboy said...

can a cola and energy drink can combine together?

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Power Drinks, Energy Drinks, Beverage Category, Enhanced, Performance, Sports, AMP, Arizona Tea, Blast, Burn, Elements, Extreme Energy Shot, Go Fast, Hyper, Impulse, Jones, KMX, Mad-Crock, Monster Energy, Mountain Dew, Piranha, Red Bull, Shredder, Skaterade, SoBe, Stacker 2, Starbucks, Tunnel, Venom

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