The science behind re-energizing: Post-pandemic, busy consumers are galvanizing the energy food and drink market

The pandemic may have led to a rise in health-conscious consumers seeking out immunity-boosting products – but it’s energy-supporting claims that still lead the way when it comes to new launches of functional food and drink. What’s the science behind energy levels, what kind of energy do these products support, and how can DSM help manufacturers ensure they deliver the perfect pick-me-up for today’s consumers?

Energy claims enjoy a post-pandemic boost

Around the world, the proportion of new functional products making energy claims has remained largely stable for the past three years, at about one-third. A closer look shows that, after a slight dip in 2020–2021, energy-supporting claims are rising again as coronavirus restrictions ease and consumers return to a busier, more active way of life and seek out instant or lasting energy. Take the dairy category, for instance: energy claims are up by four percentage points (15% to 19%) in July 2022 compared to the previous year.1

Within the category of newly launched products making functional energy claims, there are no great surprises. Energy drinks remain at the top of the list in 2022, making up 16% of new launches (two percentage points higher than in 2019). Not far behind sit nutritional and meal-replacement drinks, on 11% (also two percentage points higher than 2019).

This data aligns with two familiar trends: first, the growing proactivity in post-pandemic consumer health, and second, the rising demand for convenient nutrition solutions, for those in-between moments or even to replace traditional meals. With all this in mind, it’s important for manufacturers to consider which consumer energy needs they want to meet …

The four dimensions of energy

… because there’s more than one kind of energy! As well as physical and mental energy, we can also distinguish between a short-term ‘stimulation’ (e.g., enhancing neurological alertness) and longer-term ‘support’ (e.g., helping with sleep or hydration).

Several nutritional compounds play a role in all types of energy. Food is composed of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. Enzymes break down these macronutrients into smaller building blocks, which are converted into energy in our cells by micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Carbohydrates are most commonly used as an energy source in energy and performance drinks: they’re fast acting, turn into energy as soon as they’re ingested, and can stimulate physical energy. In short, carbohydrates are the most readily available source of energy for our brain and muscles. 

Other ingredients – such as nutraceuticals – may stimulate mental energy through neurological transmission. For instance, caffeine is a stimulant that targets muscles and organs (in particular the brain), and has a potential role in promoting alertness,2 while ginseng is consumed because of its anti-fatigue potential. At other times, consumers look for ingredients to calm and relax the mind: chamomile, for instance, may support sleep quality, which is extremely important for energy storage: after all, a lack of sleep can significantly increase the amount of energy we use.3  

The buzz around B-vitamins

Products on the market today make functional energy claims related to all kinds of solutions for these different dimensions – everything from botanicals (like cinnamon, ginger, and green tea) and hops and grains (like malted barley and oats) to minerals (like magnesium and zinc), and from macronutrients (like fiber and protein) to nutraceuticals (like caffeine and taurine).4 But one standout group of substantiated ingredients that regularly appears in such products is B-vitamins – for three very good reasons.

First, all B-vitamins (except folate) play a key role in generating energy, by turning the smaller building blocks of food in our cells into Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).5 ATP provides the energy to drive many bodily processes, such as muscle contraction, maintaining body temperature, and brain function. Moreover, B2, B6, B9, and B12 are also important in the formation of healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen around our bodies to our tissues. Less oxygen than normal causes us to feel cold, tired, and deprived of energy. A lack of B-vitamins and a shortage of (healthy) red blood cells can result in fatigue, apathy, and headaches.6 Foods that are a source of vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12 may therefore help to reduce the feeling of low energy.

B-vitamin fortification of foods and drinks is therefore a powerful way to unlock their energy potential and keep consumers feeling and performing at their best. Moreover, DSM’s research not only shows that adding B-vitamins to foods doesn’t affect consumers’ perception of the ‘naturalness’ of a product, but also indicates that fortification claims lead more people to view the product as ‘healthy’. In fact, 64% of adults aged 20–34 are positive about the inclusion of added vitamins in natural products.7 Research found that food and beverages with a health claim (related, for instance, to energy) could increase consumer purchase 1.7-fold.8 Furthermore, products containing vitamins added for health purposes and not additive purposes aren’t required to list the chemical source of the vitamins on the labeling.9

DSM: Food and beverages, with a boost

When it comes creating products with attractive energy claims, DSM is your leading industry partner. Our wide range of solutions and support services is founded on our deep understanding of the challenges our customers face – namely, delivering food and drink that delivers taste, texture, and health as well as supporting consumers’ energy levels.

Our energy beverage concepts showcase some of the ways in which DSM’s leadership enables us to work with industry customers and partners to capture new opportunities in the market. The E-fuel energy drink prototype, to give just one example, sits within the booming energy drink category and targets gamers and social media users. Not only is it convenient and delicious, but it also contains a DSM premix that provides the energizing benefits of five B-vitamins, caffeine, magnesium, and more – boosting concentration and blood flow and reducing tiredness and fatigue.

Whatever you and your consumers are looking for, DSM has the solution. We provide customized blends based on an extensive list of ingredients, including carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, nutritional lipids, carotenoids, and nutraceuticals.

Do you want to provide your customers with an energy boost to make them fly?

Young adults want to stay energized and active, with over 60% believing it’s important to stay active. Energy Boost, fortified with vitamins B3, B5, B6, and B12 as well as taurine and caffeine, reduces tiredness and fatigue and gives you an active boost during sports and outdoor activities.

Want to know more?


For customers looking to give their food and drink products a burst of energy – and catch the eye of today’s active consumers – our experts are on hand with all the consumer insights, product solutions, and front-of-pack claims support you need.

Contact DSM to find out more!


1 Mintel GNPD

2 Ker K, Edwards PJ, Felix LM, Blackhall K, Roberts I. Caffeine for the prevention of injuries and errors in shift workers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 May 12;2010(5):CD008508.


4 Mintel, accessed Nov 2022

5 Tardy AL, Pouteau E, Marquez D, Yilmaz C, Scholey A. Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 16;12(1):228. doi: 10.3390/nu12010228

6 Consolidated list of Article 13 health claims List of references received by EFSA Part 1 to 4. Parma, 5 April 2011

7 DSM naturalness research, 2019

Neale EP, Tapsell LC. Nutrition and Health Claims: Consumer Use and Evolving Regulation. Curr Nutr Rep. 2022 Sep;11(3):431-436

Published on

06 February 2023


  • Consumer insights