Energy Pouches

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When we feel the need for a boost, we traditionally resort to nicotine and caffeine as an “every day use” booster – mostly consumed in the form of cigarettes and drinks, respectively. Caffeine is a stimulant that impacts the brain and central nervous system to keep us awake. Meanwhile, nicotine is a stimulant that results in dopamine release, boosting our vigilance. Although the two substances produce different reactions in the body, they are both effective in “waking us up”.

Delivery of nicotine to the human body is being revolutionized with the emergence of the convenient pouch format. Smokers are increasingly replacing their traditional tobacco products, cigarettes or moist smokeless tobacco, with nicotine pouches in the US and elsewhere. Can the delivery of caffeine (or other revitalizing substances) be revolutionized by the same product concept? Can the pouch format help consumers move forward from traditional caffeine products, coffee or energy drinks, to a more convenient & effective solution? Entrepreneurs all around the world are testing whether energy pouches could answer these questions. But, first of all, what is an energy pouch?

An energy pouch is a small, porous (semi-permeable) sack containing a revitalizing ingredient (“natural energy booster”), such as caffeine, guarana, green tea or black tea. A pouch may also contain certain vitamins (B5, B6, B12, C), minerals or antioxidants, and come in different flavors, such as mint, cinnamon, caramel, licorice, citrus, orange or berry. Energy pouches claim to increase our energy, thereby combating fatigue and improving vitality. In some cases, energy pouches are even marketed as a way to curb nicotine craving with the potential to be an exit product from nicotine pouch consumption and dependency.

Energy pouches are typically marketed in a can of 20 with each pouch weighing 0.5 to 1 gram and lasting for 30 minutes or so. Depending on the market and brand, a can of 20 pouches usually costs between $4 to $12. Users place the energy pouches in their mouth, between the cheek / lips and gums and the ingredients in the pouch are absorbed through the mouth tissues with the saliva facilitating a suitable, moist environment. It is claimed that the absorption is quicker and the time-to-kick-in (i.e. time course of the ingredient action) is shorter than energy drinks.

Are energy pouches the next Big Thing? Possibly. For instance, at the 2024 CAGNY Conference, Altria defined non-nicotine adjacencies as a $100Bn total addressable market in the US – including the products with no age-restricted ingredients (i.e. no nicotine or THC). Based on the findings of their large-scale research, Altria stated that:

– consumers increasingly want to improve their physical and emotional state

– consumers are specifically looking to “elevate their everyday” through moments of enhanced energy, focus, stress relief and relaxation

– nearly 60% of adults are struggling to find effective solutions for stress and relaxation, and more than 40% are seeking better options to elevate their energy (i.e. the focus area of energy pouches).

Some tobacco companies are even at a more advanced stage with the energy pouch commercialization. For instance, in April 2023, Scandinavian Tobacco Group launched !act, a caffeine pouch product in Denmark. Nevertheless, the market is still characterized with tens of small players (“extreme fragmentation”) and leading online retailers feature hundreds of energy pouch brands and formats.

Although energy pouches are generally believed to be safe for daily use, there are already known side-effects, such as increased heart beat and reduced sleep. Side effects of excessive use could be more pronounced for users with an underlying health condition or concern; thereby, it could be advisable to consult a healthcare professional before using energy pouches on a daily basis. In any case, moderation is key. One pouch typically contains 20 mg to 50mg of caffeine; thereby, it is recommended not to use more than 4 (high dose) to 10 (low dose) pouches per day (200mg of caffeine). Recall that, according to the US FDA, while the caffeine content varies in different products, a typical eight-ounce (236.6ml) cup of ground coffee contains 95mg caffeine; thereby, consumers are advised not to drink more than two cups of coffee per day.

We asked Beijing Sciecure Pharmaceutical (“Sciecure Pharma”) about their take on the growing popularity of energy pouches as a development & manufacturing partner. They are cautiously optimistic about this emerging category:

“There is already a wide range of product offerings available on the market and we are experiencing a noticeable increase in the manufacturing demand on our side. We believe in the potential of energy pouches; however, we also observe quite a lot of negative consumer feedback as some products in the market fail to deliver their advertised benefits. Moreover, we also notice that some products contain too much caffeine, guarana or other ingredients in order to deliver a realizable effect. This raises the question of safety.”

We also asked Sciecure Pharma what will be the right approach for the development of the energy pouches:

“As Sciecure Pharma, we are aware of the pitfalls that could derail the development of this nascent category and we prefer to take a responsible approach. We are collaborating with key partners and customers in the EU and US on the development and commercialization of energy pouches – including regulatory engagement. Even if our cautious approach could result in a longer timeline to market, we don’t take shortcuts when it comes the safety of the products we place in the market”.

The energy pouch is a modern, convenient product concept that can effectively address the ever-increasing consumer need for a revitalizing product; thereby, it presents a multi-billion dollar opportunity. However, from product design & control to responsible advertising, energy pouches should be brought to the market in a prudent manner. Otherwise, it is almost unavoidable for this nascent category to face social and regulatory backlash – which could cripple the ultimate commercial potential of energy pouches as an “every day use” consumer product. It is also fair to note that energy pouches are even at a less developed stage than nicotine pouches in terms of overall experience, taste & flavor, delivery intensity as well as health and safety concerns. Thereby, it is crucial for the entrepreneurs to have a trustworthy development & manufacturing partner by their side.

About Sciecure Pharma

Established in 2002, Sciecure Pharma is a pioneer in innovative pharmaceutical and consumer solutions. Serving over 100 brands worldwide, including those of major tobacco companies, Sciecure specializes in the development and manufacturing of nicotine pouch products. With USA FDA, UK MHRA and China FDA approvals alongside the GMP, Kosher and ISO9001 certifications, Sciecure adheres to the highest quality standards. Sciecure’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Beijing, China has a planned production capacity of more than 10 million cans per month. As a turnkey white-label manufacturer, Sciecure strives to deliver the highest quality at a competitive price. Sciecure offers fully-customized, market-ready products in more than 30 flavors with unique designs, logos, and labels. With short development lead times and the agility to quickly scale up from low order quantities, Sciecure offers its partners maximum flexibility and expertise to quickly and efficiently bring smoke-free alternatives to adult smokers.

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