Goji energy drink is nothing new in the West. Anheuser-Busch launched its goji berry energy drink 180 Red in 2007, while IronClad has its Goji Energy Drink. In China, Red Bull dominates the energy drink market but the Red Bull isn’t the one made by Austria’s Red Bull GmbH but produced by Thailand’s Red Bull Vitamin Drink Co. Recently, natural ingredients from the Amazon such as acai and guarana have become popular through Recca and Hong Kong Amazon Group.
Now, goji has become the next emerging natural ingredient in energy/functional drinks in the country. Sinopec Ningxia Easy Joy (中石化宁夏易捷有限公司) sold RMB150 million worth of 启劲 (Star Energy) in 2013, of which most or RMB110 million were sold through Sinopec’s own EasyJoy petrol station convenience stores. That is why even though Star Energy, which officially debuted in the market in 2013, is rarely seen outside of EasyJoy petrol station convenience stores. The company has plans to make its presence felt in other distribution channels.
Sinopec Ningxia Easy Joy has its own goji fields, measuring some 50,000mu in Zhongning and Tongxin in Ningxia through a joint venture with the local government. The entity is engaged in the planting, processing and selling of goji-based products.
The company leverages on its parent’s extensive EasyJoy petrol station convenience stores to reach out to motorists looking for a quick, healthy energy boost. Star Energy is available in 14,000 of the 23,000 EasyJoy petrol station convenience stores. It is priced at a premium at RMB7 for a 248ml can and is positioned as a natural plant-based functional drink. A 250ml Red Bull, on the other hand, sells for RMB5.3.
Even though it is a plant-based drink, the marketing of Star Energy resembles the marketing techniques usually used by energy drinks companies. Star Energy’s tagline is “If you want to have strength, drink Star Energy.” The advertisements focus on delivering the message to motorists, white collar workers doing overtime and for those who engage in sports.
The debut of Star Energy not only shows the potential of goji as a ingredient in functional/energy beverages, it highlights Sinopec’s ongoing move to diversify from the oil and gas business, which is tightly controlled by the government. The recent plans to list the EasyJoy convenience store business and the selling of Star Energy beverage through the expanding EasyJoy network show Sinopec is moving in the right direction.
Qijing (Star Energy) website