I want to start my own brand of energy drinks and related products. Would you say the market is far too saturated for any new player?
What are some ways I could differentiate my product in the sea of competitors? The only one I can think of is packaging.
IMHO "energy drinks" is a pretty busy market. However, there are other similar categories that can still be tapped - recovery (post-workout or whatever), caffeine-free, low-caffeine and anything that seems healthier than your typical energy drink. I think people with caffeine sensitivity are an underserved niche.
The biggest differentiator IMO is flavor (and level of carbonation for me) - if you find a unique flavor that a lot of people love, you got yourself a product/market fit.
Also, you need to be mindful of scale of production and distribution channels. There are 2 products that I loved in the last 2 years that I can't buy anymore - there must have been an insufficient market for those. One was sold in various stores, one I was able to get in my local supermarket.
You need to properly define who your target audience is. People who drink energy drinks is not an audience you can differentiate with.
Mana Energy Potion did just that for gamers. Everything about them (product, packaging, marketing, name, story) is all geared towards their exact audience -- gamers.
Analyze how they made their drink work in this saturated market. It's entirely possible, but you have to start by first figuring out exactly who your target audience will be.