Convenient Caffeine

Convenience stores are buzzing with caffeinated drinks.

Convenient Caffeine

October 2023   minute read

By: Pat Pape

If you’re exhausted, drowsy and longing for a nap, join the club. A National Sleep Foundation survey found that, on average, U.S. adults feel sleepy three days a week. Of those fatigued participants, 40% say that drowsiness impedes their daily activities. Thirty-three percent drink coffee to wake up while 62% simply “shake it off and keep going.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 80% of U.S. adults consume caffeine in some form every day. From students and athletes to busy professionals and exhausted parents, caffeine helps people manage daily life. The drug (yes, it’s technically a stimulant) has no taste or nutritional value, yet it gets credit for restoring muscle strength, improving physical performance, boosting mood and enhancing memory and alertness.

Bestselling author Michael Pollan became an advocate of caffeine’s benefits while researching his book “Caffeine: How Coffee and Tea Created the Modern World.”

Approximate caffeine content of different drinks

An 8-ounce cup of coffee: 80-100 mg

A 12-ounce soft drink: 30-40 mg

An 8-ounce cup of green or black tea: 30-50 mg

An 8-ounce energy drink: 45-250 mg

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

“I’d read a lot of negative press about caffeine and worried I was drinking too much. But after researching it, it’s actually more good for you than not,” Pollan said in an interview while promoting the book. “It’s protective against several kinds of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and cardiovascular disease. There are a lot of good things about it.”

That’s good news for the millions of people who can’t get the day going without a little help.

“Caffeine and coffee have transcended their status as simply a beverage to become an intrinsic part of people’s lives, woven into the fabric of their daily routines and personal connections,” said Tim Warner, general manager at Costa United States, the Britain-based coffee company owned by Coca-Cola.

Creative Caffeine

The most common sources of caffeine for American consumers are sodas, brewed coffee and tea, according to the International Food Information Council. The typical cup of black coffee has 100 milligrams of caffeine and a cup of tea as much as 60. A canned soda is allowed a maximum of 71 milligrams of caffeine per U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations. However, there is no limit on the amount of caffeine allowed in energy drinks, since they don’t fall into the government’s soda category.

A survey conducted earlier this year and reported by Statista found that 32% of respondents aged 18-29 years consumed energy drinks regularly. That figure was slightly higher for the 30-49 age group, which were even more likely to drink energy drinks (34%), but for those 50-64, energy drinks were not the chosen beverage for an energy boost (15%).

To keep customers interested, major manufacturers are introducing new caffeine-rich drinks. Gatorade recently launched Fast Twitch, a sugar-free beverage with the same caffeine content as two cups of coffee. PepsiCo has a stake in Celsius, a popular energy beverage brand with 200 milligrams of caffeine in a 12-ounce can. Circana’s 2023 New Product Pacesetters report notes that some of the most successful new product launches this year are energy drinks, such as Alani Nu’s caffeinated collection, which also contains biotin, B6 and B12.

Guayakí, a California-based drink company, markets products made from yerba mate, a naturally caffeinated holly tree found in the South American rainforest.

“Energy has been a driving factor in our cooler’s success, leading all segments in growth year over year.”

“We recently launched a new flavor for our High Energy cans—Guayakí Organic Yerba Mate Peach Revival,” said Brian Bousley, chief commercial officer for Guayakí. “It’s a product inspired by customer feedback for a peach flavor, lower sugar and full caffeine. Each can has 20 calories and 150 milligrams of caffeine.”

Guayakí products are available at Maverik, Extra Mile and select divisions of 7-Eleven, Circle K, Jacksons and Town Pump.

“Energy is big,” said Chad White, food service category manager for Rutter’s stores. “The category is growing not just in the vault but on the handcrafted side as well. Handcrafted beverages in general have all seen great volume.”

That’s why Rutter’s has a handcrafted beverage program featuring Red Bull smoothies. It is expanding the offerings due to customer response.

“Our smoothie is made with a full 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull or Red Bull Sugar Free mixed with flavoring syrup, smoothie cream and ice,” he said. “The current flavor selection is vanilla, hazelnut and raspberry, but we’ll be adding new flavors in the near future.”

 Curby’s Express Market in Lubbock, Texas, offers a generous selection of proprietary made-to-order energy drinks, including a Red Bull Refresher flavored with assorted Torani syrups, and the chain’s exclusive energy line, dubbed “Zoomie.”

“We use a proprietary energy mix to make nine different varieties of Zoomies, all in beautiful colors,” said Tony Sparks, head of customer wow for Curby’s.

Sugar-free energy is the go-to beverage for many consumers.

To get even more mileage from the fountain, Curby’s mixologists create Twisters on request by combining traditional fountain drinks—Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew and more—with fresh fruit, fresh fruit puree made in house and a generous serving of ice. Menu offerings include the South Padre, a combination of Coca-Cola, lime and coconut, and the Southerner, made with Dr Pepper, peach and strawberry puree.

“Starbucks came out with a ‘pink drink,’” Sparks said. “We have something almost identical, but ours is less expensive.”

Tea2Go TeaN’ergy, also based in Lubbock, is a drinks-only drive-thru outlet offering tea and propriety energy drinks. The 35-store chain sells 45 flavors of loose-leaf tea, either brewed for immediate consumption or packaged for at-home preparation. But the big attraction is a proprietary, made-to-order selection of energy drinks, each containing 165 milligrams of caffeine. Currently, the most popular flavor is strawberry cotton candy.

The drink contains powdered caffeine that is manufactured for the company. “It’s all-natural and made from green tea extract and coffee extract,” said Stephanie Chavez, CEO. “There’s no sugar so you don’t get a crash.”

Sugar-free energy is the go-to beverage for many consumers. Red Bull Sugar Free first appeared in 2003 and quickly gained a following. A 2021 report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation notes that low-calorie energy drink sales rose from 17.3% of the energy drink market in 2006 to 41.7% in 2020, and are predicted to increase to 42.1% by 2025.

Caffeine Is Climbing

At Rutter’s stores, canned energy drinks fly out the door.

“Energy has been a driving factor in our cooler’s success, leading all segments in growth year over year,” said Joseph Bortner, senior category manager for Rutter’s. “While the top is growing at a steady clip, new entrants that offer differentiation to the vault have gained traction and share of the category. In general, our foot traffic is at its peak in the morning and at lunch, and the sales are proportionate to traffic flowing through the store.”

Although drinks dominate the energy market, Bortner believes energy shots also warrant space in the store. “I believe many customers shop both categories in the same trip,” he said, adding that the energy drink consumer is seeking hydration, along with the functional benefit of energy, and the shot shopper wants the functional benefit.

There is no limit on the amount of caffeine allowed in energy drinks, since they don’t fall into the government’s soda category.

“Maybe [the shot shopper] has a long trip ahead and may not be looking to consume so many ounces of liquid. But they still seek the caffeine,” he said. “Or they could be planning for later use since the shot is smaller and more concealable. They can throw it in a pocket or bag and use it later.”

Energy drink sales continue to climb, and Verified Market Research predicts a bright future, with the nation’s energy drink market growing from $23.49 billion in 2022 to $47.74 billion by 2030.

“Coffee is still the morning choice, but throughout the day, energy drinks are the beverage of choice,” White said.

Pat Pape

Pat Pape

Pat Pape worked in the convenience store industry for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time writer. See more of her articles at

To provide complete functionality, this web site needs your explicit consent to store browser cookies. We recommended that you "allow all cookies" so you may be able to use certain features, such as logging in, saving articles, or personalizing content.