Energy and sports drinks sales are booming as people turn to them to bust stress and lift spirits in the credit crunch.

Sales have shot up 15% to £683.2m over the past year, making it one of the best-performing categories in food & drink, according to Nielsen data seen exclusively by The Grocer. There has also been a market increase in volume sales, which were up 16% over the same period [52w/e 4 October 2008].

The products perfectly met the demand of today's hectic lifestyles, said Peter Hindmarsh, trading controller, Nisa-Today's.

"The sector is proving to be a phenomenally vibrant area driven by changing lifestyles and huge supplier investment in advertising," he said. "Consumers now understand that the products can help you cope with stresses and keep you alert."

Recovery drinks form a relatively small part of the energy and sports drinks category. The sector is dominated by milk-based brands including Mars Refuel and For Goodness Shakes!

But this could change if GlaxoSmithKline pushes its Lucozade brand further into the sector. Although Lucozade Sport already operates in the recovery category, it comes in a powdered not ready-to-drink format. Industry insiders told The Grocer that GSK was planning the launch of a drink based on Lucozade Sport but with added protein powder early next year. The company insisted it had "no immediate plans" for such a launch.

If it did launch the new drink, it would provide a welcome boost to the category, said Martin Jeremy, co-founder of rival My Goodness. "History shows that when a big brand launches into a sector it propels the original pioneer into fast growth," he said.

GSK also revealed plans this week to revive its struggling Lucozade HydroActive brand, which was down 29% to £7.6m last year [Nielsen]. From this week, HydroActive will be repositioned under the Lucozade Sport banner as part of the relaunch, which is backed by a £3.5m push.