Endless hype and limited supplies saw Prime Hydration set the convenience channel alight, with many of those lucky enough to get hold of it reporting it selling out in hours.
So understandably hopes were high when Prime Energy appeared on the scene. But with 140mg of caffeine per 330ml can, above the level most UK manaufacturers advise against selling to children under the age of 16, a large portion of the target audience for the Prime range was wiped out. We ask retailers whether Prime still packs a punch, or whether this is a step too far for the drinks brand made famous on social media by wrestler Logan Paul and boxer KSI.
“Prime Energy has fallen flat on its face unfortunately,” sighs Ian Lewis, owner of Spar Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire. “We’ve got a Prime code of conduct we signed with Blakemore to say if you bumped up the price of either Energy or Hydration then you get blacklisted. We’ve gone for a two for five deal just to try and get it [Energy] going, but it’s trickling along. It’s nowhere near the Hydration where we’re talking 280 bottles gone in five hours.”
He explains that the Hydration drink is now available on pre-order from Blakemore and that demand is still strong. “I put a Facebook post up saying everything is on two for £5 and people are still coming in for Hydration. But with the Energy drink it’s the age restriction that is the biggest problem. Kids got hooked on it [the brand] and now they want it and for under-16s it’s a no-no and it’s killed it. If we’d have let anyone buy it I’m sure it would have absolutely flown off the shelves without a doubt, but we just can’t do it.”
Despite the store prohibiting sales to under-16s, children are still trying to get their hands on the energy cans, which is providing a further challenge. “A few youngsters have tried their luck - I’ve caught two kids with cans in their pockets,” he says.
He is also struggling to compete with Tesco, which began stocking the drink at the end of June. “Unfortunately, we’re either going to be stuck with a lot because I think Tesco has gone in at £2, which has undercut us quite a bit because we’re at £2.99, or two for £5.”
Despite his frustrations, Ian claims the product is selling, just at a far slower rate than its Hydration counterpart, and he thinks Blakemore made “the right decision” to take it onboard. “It’s disappointing because we got in fairly soon and personally I think it tastes quite nice,” he says. “I’ve sold 95 of one flavour and I’ve got 172 cans left, so it’s not exactly stuck there on the shelf gathering dust. I’ve got 211 cans left of another flavour. So we’re talking maybe a month or a month and a half before we exhaust it, but it’s whether people continue to buy it. I’m hopeful, but with summer disappearing rapidly is it one of those that we’ll have to put as a loss?”
Keith Fernie, managing director of David’s Kitchen, which comprises three Spar stores in Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy and Falkirk, had no such problems when he got his allocation from CJ Lang at the beginning of last month. “We’ve always gone with RRP [of £2.50 per can], whereas some retailers have been perceived as ripping people off,” he says. “It [the Energy variant] was a bit slower, but purely because it was specifically for adults and it was marketed and treated as such in store for us,” he says. “It sold out in two or three days, which was a bit slower than Prime Hydration - that was selling out in hours when it first came in.” In terms of Prime’s longevity, David remains philosophical. “I think all bubbles burst eventually,” he says matter-of-factly. “I think the multiples are starting to get hold of Prime now. As soon as it becomes available as an everyday product then I think it will slow down.”
Bhavik Odedra, owner of two One Stops in Leicester and Oakham, has fond memories of his first time stocking Prime Hydration. “We had the Blue Raspberry, Lemon & Lime and Tropical Punch Hydration flavours and they’ve all done pretty well,” he says. “Back in February/ March-time, our Barleythorpe store was the only shop in the area to get Prime Hydration in and news spread and people from Oakham and even Northampton were coming to buy it. A child would bring a bottle into school and tell their mates and the next morning we’d have 50 school kids coming in - it was crazy!”
Prime Energy has been a more discreet affair, in spite of Bhavik’s best efforts to fire up customers’ interest on social media. “We only started to get the cans in a month ago,” he says. “They were selling, but slower than Hydration. We had two cases of each flavour, which sold out and then we’ve been able to order some more, which is going at a steady pace. It went within the first two weeks, whereas Hydration sold out within a day.”
Serge Notay, who owns Notay’s Convenience in Batley has Prime cans lingering in-store. “I bought six cases (one of each flavour) from Booker and I’m making a 50% margin on it,” he says. “It’s not flying. It’s crazy caffeine levels so we’re having to monitor it to ensure we are not selling it to children and I’ve had to refuse a lot of sales [to children].”
On the other hand, he claims that “Prime Hydration is here to stay”. He says that people are especially keen for the American flavours, but don’t understand that retailers have to pay - and therefore charge - more for imported variants. “Customers don’t realise that some of the stuff that’s come through is American,” he says. They are asking me to get the American flavours in, but I won’t because of the price. They’ll just think I’m ripping them off.”
Although the Hydration drink is still a steady seller, Serge echoes David’s view that there is much less excitement about the brand now compared to the heady early days where kids would queue to get their hands on the sought after bottles. “It’s just a regular line now,” he says.
And as for Prime Energy? “I think it’s a one hit wonder,” he says.
Ian is inclined to agree. “I think now we can’t get Strawberry & Watermelon [which is now exclusive to Tesco] I don’t think we’ll see any other flavours,” he says. “I think it’ll just trickle along now. There’s only so many times kids can come in and beg their parents to spend three quid on a bottle.”
Ian already has his eye on another social media trend. “I think MrBeast [chocolate] is probably the next big thing,” he says. “[With Prime] I didn’t know who KSI and Logan Paul were [before Prime took off] and then all of a sudden this MrBeast comes along and - wow! - every kid knows who he is and it’s crazy.” Luckily for Ian, Spar has just announced an exclusive deal with the brand, so watch this space!