Wednesday, April 24, 2013

All Hyped Up│The fears and facts of Energy Drinks. By Lindsay Beyerstein

(New Republic) The modern market for energy drinks is less than 20 years old, but the products are already firmly rooted in the dubious tradition of American patent medicine. We’ve always had a weakness for elixirs and potions that promise health and vitality, but nowadays, we get our nostrums from the convenience store rather than the travelling medicine show. If you wanted to sum up energy drinks, you could put it this way: A middling amount of caffeine combined with mega-doses of marketing and pseudoscience. But while the market has experienced incredible growth over the past two decades, an accumulation of deaths ostensibly caused by energy drinks, an FDA investigation, and the general tenor of public alarm suggests that the honeymoon phase is over. But should we really be worrying?

Since their inception, the marketing of energy drinks had been tied up in the idea of excitement and rebellion. With names like “Monster,” “Rockstar,” and “Cocaine,” these drinks are marketed to appeal to those with a taste for danger. Red Bull, a privately held company, is rumored to spend 40 percent of its revenue on marketing, including sponsorships of extreme sports and spectacular stunts like Felix Baumgartner’s 128,100-foot parachute jump from the edge of outer space. Red Bull swore Baumgartner’s leap into the abyss was a serious mission to expand human knowledge, but like most aspects of the energy drink industry, the real focus was on showmanship.

These tactics seem to have worked. The U.S. market for energy drinks has grown dramatically since the launch of Red Bull in 1997. Despite their premium price tag, energy drinks did especially brisk business during the recession; the market grew 60 percent between 2008 and 2012. Today, energy drinks are a $12.5 billion industry, dominated by a handful of big brands: Red Bull commands a 42 percent market share, followed by Monster at 37 percent and Rockstar at 11 percent. In the energy shot category, 5-Hour Energy boasts an astonishing 90 percent market share. Red Bull sells over 1.5 billion cans a year in the United States. Monster estimates that 8 billion cans of its product have been consumed worldwide since 2002.

But all this might soon change. In the fall of 2012, the FDA revealed that it was investigating a series of deaths associated with energy drinks. Between 2004 and 2012, the FDA received five reports of deaths that might have been caused by Monster Energy and 13 that might have been caused by 5-Hour Energy. These reports were grist for Senators Dick Durban and Richard Blumenthal, who have been pressuring the FDA to get tougher on energy drinks. The American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in against energy drinks for children earlier this year. Even the courts may have something to say in the near future. Anais Fournier, a 14-year-old Maryland girl, died of cardiac arrest in December of 2011 after drinking two 24-oz cans of Monster Energy 24 hours. Her parents are suing Monster Energy.

Regardless of what regulations are put in place and what the courts decide, should we worry? Most of these drinks are composed of little more than water, sugar, caffeine, and a proprietary blend of vitamins, amino acids, and herbs. As far as the FDA is concerned, “energy” means calories, and most energy drinks have those—but, as Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest explains, “That’s not what they’re bragging about.” Energy drinks are marketed as “functional beverages,” which supposedly confer increased vigor and concentration. To the extent that caffeine boosts alertness, Jacobson concedes that this is a valid claim.

So just how much caffeine is in these drinks? ... ► Read the full article by Lindsay Beyerstein in New Republic

Source: New Republic
Author: Lindsay Beyerstein is an investigative journalist in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in The Columbia Journalism Review, Newsweek, Salon, Slate, and other publications.

1 comment:

  1. Check out this article:

    by Mike Esterl│in Wall Street Journal

    San Francisco Says Energy-Drink Maker Targets Kids; Company Defends Product, Denies Allegation

    San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued Monster Beverage Corp. in California state court Monday, accusing the company of marketing its caffeinated energy drinks to children despite alleged health risks.

    The lawsuit represents the latest effort by an increasing number of city, state and federal authorities to investigate or restrict the selling and marketing of energy drinks—which have quickly become an estimated $10 billion industry in the U.S. The drinks promise a kick from caffeine and other ingredients such as taurine and ginseng.