Consumer demand for natural products has sparked a new generation of energy drinks, according to new research.

The research from Productscan, released this week, has found that energy drinks manufacturers are jumping on the health bandwagon and introducing natural ingredients to their drinks range.

Recent innovations have led to a shift from stimulant, instant boost energy drinks, such as Red Bull, to a more sustainable, longer lasting energy lift obtained through the use of natural ingredients.

The energy drinks market continues to offer significant growth opportunity and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.5% in Europe to 2011 to reach US$5bn. Within the region, the Italian market will experience the fastest rate of growth at 10%, followed by Sweden (7%).

According to Productscan, of all sports and energy food and drinks launched globally in 2007, 7% claimed to be natural and 12% claimed to be high in vitamins. These products contain ingredients such as oats and ginseng, as well as more novel superfruits such as açaí and goji berries.

By formulating drinks with such ingredients, manufacturers are not only able to make a natural claim; there is also the added benefit of positioning the product as an everyday soft drink, targeted at consumers looking for vitality and wellness benefits.

Sports drinks in the US, such as Gatorade, are consumed for general wellbeing and hydration, not just for sporting activities, and manufacturers in Europe have the opportunity to tap into this trend.

In the UK in March 2007, Danone Waters launched Volvic Revive Energy Drink, a flavoured water formulated with no added sugar and contains stimulating plant extracts such as ginseng and guarana.

Natural is expected to continue to grow in importance in food and drinks as consumers become increasingly aware of other issues such as food safety and 'additive free', the research concluded.