One of the world’s fastest-growing beverage brands puts the capabilities of Hungary’s manufacturing in the international spotlight: HELL ENERGY. As of this February 1, its XIXO carbonated soft drinks are packaged solely in 100% recyclable aluminum cans, which can be recycled an infinite number of times.
Established 15 years ago, family-owned HELL ENERGY has achieved explosive domestic and export success to become the third biggest energy drink manufacturer in the world behind Austria’s Red Bull and the American Monster Energy, according to estimations, with a presence in over 50 countries on five continents and market leadership in ten of those countries.
HELL ENERGY’s dynamic expansion shows no sign of slowing: the firm has continuously seen double-digit annual growth to reach revenues of over USD 170 million in 2019 and, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, its 2020 sales rose by another 20%. The vision driving the firm has not changed since day one, according to Managing Director Barnabás Csereklye. “The owners recognized they could create a premium-quality energy drink that tastes good at an affordable price. They developed a recipe and, at a tasting, someone described it as ‘hellishly good’. That gave the brand its name and, within four years, it was market leader in Hungary,” he says. The quality of HELL’s products is reflected in the fact that they contain only top-quality ingredients. “For example, we don’t use artificial sweeteners, only best-quality granulated sugar as this ensures real energy and, unlike some competitors, the longer shelf life of our drinks is due to pasteurization not artificial preservatives,” he stresses.
In addition to quality, HELL’s products are characterized by innovation. Every year, new products are launched to meet the needs of different audiences. Today, the range that is almost exclusively packaged in aluminum cans includes energy drinks with varying levels of caffeine, beverages for active lives, milk-based energy coffees and other functional drinks enriched with beneficial ingredients such as vitamins. “As an illustration, one of our products, FOCUS, has been proven to enhance attention capability by 26%,” the Managing Director notes.
Ensuring wide availability has been central to HELL’s export success, he explains. “Our vision is to become market leader in every country in which we are playing. When we arrive in a new market, we build our presence, and invest in local marketing and sales. This is how we became leaders in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus and Azerbaijan. In some countries we set up a subsidiary, in others, we work with a distributor that can give HELL its full attention.” Countries the company has recently entered where this approach is paying dividends include India and the U.K., while its next expansion could be into Africa. HELL’s marketing communications are equally effective. It established international awareness by sponsoring the AT&T Williams Formula 1 team in 2009 and, since 2018, has centered its prominent advertising campaigns on a man who embodies the brand’s energy, strength and quality: Bruce Willis.
Milestones of development
Another reason HELL stands out is that it is a fully integrated vertical company. “We are self-sufficient: we do our own can-making, filling, warehousing and logistics. No other soft and energy drink manufacturer in the world has these capabilities,” Barnabás Csereklye says. The company built its first filling factory in northern Hungary in 2010. Since then, it has invested over EUR 280 million in expanding its facilities in order to keep up with the exponential growth in demand and reliably guarantee the highest production standards. Today, it boasts three ultra-modern high-speed filling factories. The first two of these can fill nearly three billion cans a year and are fitted with cutting-edge equipment from Germany’s KRONES. In September, 2020 Hungary’s Minister of Finance cut the tape at the opening of HELL’s third filling factory, a 13,000-square-meter facility that can produce 50,000 cans of premium energy coffees an hour using Hungarian milk.
A previous milestone came in 2017 when HELL opened Hungary’s first can-making plant with the help of U.S. leader Stolle Machinery. Already one of the largest of its kind in the world, its capacity is set to double in 2021. “We have also invested in the most modern technology for warehousing and logistics – there are only three other factories in Europe that have our kind of wall-to-wall production. We strive for excellence in terms of best-practice manufacturing: our factories are certified to the highest level in our sector, FSSC 22000, and we were rewarded by many industry awards,” the Managing Director reveals.
Committed to the environment
HELL is also leading the global sector toward circular economies and sustainability. In June 2020, it signed a contract with Norway’s Hydro to move production of its drinks into cans made of Hydro CIRCAL, the world’s greenest aluminum, according to the Managing Director. “It contains at least 75% recycled post-consumer scrap and we are the first beverage company in the world using this very environmentally friendly material. By utilizing Hydro CIRCAL, as well as through advances we have made in reducing can thickness, we are decreasing our carbon footprint by 60%,” Barnabás Csereklye concludes.
Sustainability as core strategy
The latest press release by the soft drink brand XIXO confirms that HELL ENERGY Hungary Ltd. is one of the few Hungarian companies that treat sustainability not only as an abstract business philosophy, but a significant part of its core strategy that shows itself in its actions.
“Consumers have a right to expect from the market leader that it will protect the planet with environmentally conscious decisions, and lead other companies by its example. The use of Hydro CIRCAL is a milestone in sustainability for the entire industry, and is a great alternative solution to stopping the unacceptable levels of plastic waste that are being generated every day,” the company statement says.
No more plastic bottles
Thanks to the company’s long-term sustainability program, it has been making ongoing improvements in the percentage of its portfolio that is packaged in aluminum cans, so that by last year, over 95% of its products were sold in aluminum cans. The company has also committed to reducing its total number of plastic bottles to under 1% by 2025, and has stayed true to its word as it has now permanently stopped manufacturing plastic bottles for its carbonated soft drinks.
“Starting now, we are ceasing use of plastic bottles even in the largest global product category, namely carbonated soft drinks, since we do indeed keep our word! Besides the environmental benefits, it is important to keep in mind that 250ml aluminum cans are equivalent to one portion, which is about the right amount to drink at a time, so in contrast with plastic bottles, this form of packaging does not lead to excessive unsustainable consumption,” XIXO’s brand manager Márton Vecsei is quoted in the statement.
Unlike plastic bottles, aluminum cans – when properly collected and handled – may be recycled fully and an infinite number of times without any loss in quality. It is the most valuable of all waste packaging as well, meaning it gets collected and recycled most easily and most often. Some 75% of all the aluminum ever manufactured is still in circulation today, and thanks to an efficient closed loop recycling, within as little as 60 days of when a consumer throws out a can into the recycling bin, another aluminum can may be made out of it. This is very different from plastic waste, most of which ends up posing an environmental hazard for hundreds of years. According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, out of 78 million tons of plastic packaging used each year, only a tiny 2% gets recycled within a closed loop.
Experience shows that HELL works tirelessly to make its sustainability a reality – as a part of their campaign with XIXO, promoting recycling, they helped their consumers re-collect more than 400,000 aluminum cans in the summer of 2020.
HELL Gamer Edition
HELL ENERGY is launching a new product line, its latest family of energy drinks, HELL Gamer Edition, specifically for video game enthusiasts. Game-evoking name and design, three refreshing flavors, amino acids, B vitamins and 32 mg/100 ml caffeine ensure everything is good for a good game.
In Hungary, 3.8 million people play on computers, consoles or mobile devices, more than 500,000 of them can be considered hardcore gamers. They are the ones who play e-sports games, are contestants or have already attended an offline e-sports event. They are characterized by spending a lot of time in front of a machine, an average of 3.5 hours on weekdays, but this can be as high as six hours on weekends.
A good gamer must meet a number of expectations, like concentrating on the game for long hours, even at night.
Creative Marketing Director of HELL ENERGY Hungary Ltd., Krisztián Schmidt says that “as our consumers have become accustomed to, as a domestic market-leading manufacturer, we like to come up with constant innovations and always offer more to our brand lovers. We have created the design of our new drinks specifically with the gamers in mind and we are proud to present the HELL ENERGY Gamer energy drink family, which is making its debut on the Hungarian and international stage."
The composition of HELL Gamer Edition drinks contributes to the reduction of fatigue due to the added amino acids, the usual caffeine content of energy drinks and the B vitamin content.
The time spent playing the game now comes in 3 special flavors:
– ARCADE Tropical Bomb: with its exotic taste, it brings the atmosphere of the jungle;
– NOVA Cherry Beam: you can enjoy the refreshing taste of black cherry during a more difficult quest or battle;
– PvP Coco Split: it flies the gamer to the tropics with its coconut flavor.