Anyone following recent headlines might find the energy drink category hard to swallow. The enhanced beverages have been called a “public health concern,” as reports link overconsumption of caffeine, their key ingredient, to insomnia, anxiety, seizures, heart attacks and even death. (See “Sugar’s sour side,” page 25.) The number of hospital visits involving energy drinks doubled between 2007 and 2011 and has increased almost tenfold since 2005, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Yet even amid the controversy, consumers continue to crack the top on this category.
Last year, U.S. sales of conventional energy drinks grew 14 percent to more than $8 billion, Nutrition Business Journal reports. In that same time period, energy shot sales increased 18 percent to nearly $2 billion. Leader Red Bull accounted for $1.9 billion of sales, followed closely by Monster at $1.6 billion. Incidentally, the Food and Drug Administration has pointed its finger at both companies for adverse health events related to consumption of their products. While this information may not intimidate longtime users, it could keep new consumers from taking their first sips, predicts market research firm Mintel. The inherent safety risks, high sugar content and prominence of artificial ingredients in conventional brands have therefore presented a ripe opportunity for natural manufacturers to capture energy-drink-loving consumers seeking cleaner, safer options. Luckily, many are leaping at the chance.