“In our research we found that many individuals that drink that next cup of coffee in the afternoon do so not because they want a cup of coffee necessarily but really because they want a caffeine boost,” said Phillip Dritsas, SVP, general manager consumer division and specialty markets at Mission Pharmacal, the company behind Compete Energy Bites.
The confection-like ‘bites’ come in two flavors, chocolate and mocha, and are packed with 135 mg of caffeine each—equivalent to a 12 oz cup of coffee. “So the idea was to say: Okay, we’re not replacing coffee. But there are times when it’s just not convenient to stop what you’re doing and go get a cup of coffee.”
The fitness centers and bike stores that stocked Compete Energy Bites since its first iteration continue to do so, but as part of the brand repositioning strategy, some university book stores have started stocking them, and the company is pushing for more inclusion in convenience stores.
Social media feedback to build a new brand
Compete’s repositioning effort was meant to broaden the brand image and attract different types of consumers. The brand revamped its packaging, logo, and website, which Dritsas called “the personality, and the message of the product.”
“Our initial effort had a male-bias to it, not that it was exclusive, but in terms of retail placement and messaging it was very male-centric,” Dritsas told NutraIngredients-USA. “What we have found though is that far more females are interested in the product than we have originally anticipated.”
This observation came from looking at the brand’s social media followers and interactions. Since relaunching the product in September after a short marketing hiatus, the brand has made 820,000 engagements on its social media accounts, with 29 million exposures. “In 2017, I’m going to broaden the marketing effort far more and add on a more gender-neutral type of [message].”
An indulgent caffeine treat
The active ingredient in the energy bites—and the only functional one—is caffeine. Other than that, Compete is made out of ingredients one can find in a confection.
According to Dritsas, there isn’t as much pressure as other functional food categories, say a nutrition or protein bar, to not be deemed a candy bar in disguise. “It’s a tried and true and accepted way to deliver [caffeine],” he said. “Consumers prefer a treat over a pill or something like that.”
He added that the target audience for Compete Energy Bars isn’t one to necessarily seek clean label products. “Think of the two people that go to Starbucks. One says ‘I want a dark roast with soy milk,’ and the next person in line says ‘I want a caramel macchiato.’ We’re for the caramel macchiato people here.”