Canadian entrepreneur Brad Woodgate founded the No Sugar Company (photo: supplied)
No Sugar Company, a brand started by Canadian entrepreneur Brad Woodgate in 2018, has had success in the gas and c-store channel with its sugar-free energy beverage brand, Joyburst. About 40% of Joyburst’s sales in Canada and the U.S. are generated there.
No Sugar Company is turning attention to the channel in expanding its sugar alternative snacks, like Chocolate Caramel and Chocolate Peanut Butter keto bars. Their 100% year-over-year increase in sales has mostly been at mass and drug retailers, “and we think it can be very disruptive in gas and convenience,” explains Woodgate.
He notes the price of the average candy bar has crept up because of inflation to within about $.50 cents of No Sugar Company bars. “If it’s only a small price difference, consumers will make that trade for the health benefits,” says Woodgate. The added benefit for the company? With trial, more consumers will also discover no sugar products can taste good, too, and will potentially purchase in bulk at other retailers.
While No Sugar Company can’t compete with the massive marketing budgets of multinational brands, he says the company is looking at advertising promotions on the back of receipts and will partner for the third consecutive year with the Heart and Stroke Foundation on National No Sugar Day, which is Oct. 3.
A large portion of lozenges in c-stores also contain sugar, making them as much candy as medicated tablets.
Brands like Bentasil propose an antidote, with sugar-free lozenges in flavours highlighting other cold-fighting or throat-soothing properties–eucalyptus, blackcurrant and honey lemon. They also have a soft texture, allowing for it to be chewed or sucked.
While Bentasil has been around for 30 years, mostly in pharmacy retailers, “it had never really made its way into convenience,” says Mark Elliott, key account manager at Regal Confections, a distributor of global candy, chocolate and the Bentasil brand in Canada.
That’s changing. The three SKUs recently secured listing in 7-Eleven Canada, where it will be merchandised in the health section alongside cough/cold products and OTC pain relief in 600 stores.
“There is a growing portion of the population that specifically looks for sugar-free alternatives, especially in something that will be in their mouth for an extended period in providing relief from a sore throat,” says Elliott. “We’re really just getting started in the c-store channel and hope to get into other big chains as well.”
The beverage category is also seeing changes in consumption preferences.
That is reflected in a Conference Board of Canada study, The Non-alcoholic Beverage Sector in Canada: A Study of Economic Impact and Consumption, which the Canadian Beverage Association financially supported.
It found the share of low-calorie servings of total non-alcoholic beverage volumes over the past 12 years has steadily increased, from 44% in 2009 to 58% in 2021.
“Low-calorie non-alcoholic beverage servings have outstripped their full-calorie counterparts and become mainstream over the past decade,” reads the report.
And since 2014, the share of low-calorie servings has grown across almost every beverage subcategory, including sports drinks, carbonated soft drinks, caffeinated energy drinks, still drinks, iced/ready-to-drink coffee drinks and juice-containing drinks (nectars).
Caffeinated energy drinks, in particular, got a jolt, with low-calorie servings accounting for 28% of consumption in 2021—almost double what it was in 2014.
Red Bull is among the energy drink brands expanding their portfolios with no sugar options. In January, it launched Red Bull Red Edition Sugarfree and Red Bull Apricot Edition Sugarfree nationwide.
Red Bull directed an interview request to the CBA, which has been leading an effort launched in 2014, called the Balanced Calories Initiative, (BCI) in partnership with the federal government, to reduce the number of calories Canadians consume from non-alcoholic beverages by 20% by 2025.
That requires more product with less sugar, which is what fuels high calorie counts in beverages.
“BCI is about providing consumers with more choices,” says Erich Schmidt, director, comms and public affairs at the CBA. “We believe that consumers shouldn’t have to change their beverage choices, but rather be provided with options through product innovation, thereby ensuring consumers have access to low and no-calorie products.”