Cocaine back on US market with softer sell

Energy drink just one of many new products produced for buzz-hungry Americans

Cocaine energy drinkUnited States The energy drink, Cocaine, withdrawn from the US market by its Nevada-based owners in mid-2007 after the Food and Drug Administration took issue with its provocative marketing, has returned with a softer sell but unchanged high caffeine and stimulant formulation.

Redux Beverages says it has consulted with the FDA in its relaunch which has seen it drop its drug-referenced marketing that included slogans such as 'gives you a five-hour blast,' and suggested cocktails like 'Cocaine Snort' and 'Cocaine Blast.' A drug warning has also been added to the product's label.

The FDA has given no indication it will act a second time against the beverage that contains 280g of caffeine — equivalent to three cups of coffee — as well as taurine, L-carnitine, guarana plus other stimulants. A can of market leader Red Bull contains 75mg of caffeine.

Cocaine is not alone in associating itself with street drugs as consumers seek to reconcile their energy deficits. The energy market is spilling out beyond energy drinks into confectionery and other food groups. Newly launched confectionery includes Buzz Bites, Snickers Charged, Jelly Belly's Extreme Sport Beans and, most controversially, Crackheads.

"The energy category has experienced such explosive growth that it is no surprise that things have been extended to candies," said the Council for Responsible Nutrition's (CRN) science and regulatory affairs vice president, Andrew Shao.

He said Cocaine was unlikely to face further regulatory scrutiny given its consultation with the FDA. "If the product is manufactured to the appropriate standards, advertising is not misleading and claims substantiated, and the levels of active ingredients are not considered unsafe, there is no reason for this to draw any more attention than other products."

But he questioned its ability to tackle the established brands such as Red Bull and Coca Cola's Full Throttle. "This is a very competitive category, and I'm not sure Redux has the advertising muscle or distribution to really make a dent in the market share of the established brands."

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, science and regulatory affairs vice president at the Washington, DC-based Natural Products Association, agreed. "Responsible?retailers familiar with this issue may?exercise a long moment of pause when deciding to source such a product for myriad reasons," he stated.

Cocaine is prohibited in Australia for exceeding permitted caffeine levels, but Redux said it planned to introduce the drink to European markets this year.

Shao noted a CRN analysis of taurine that found it is safe at doses up to 3g/day. Cocaine contains 750mg per 8.4oz serving. "While it is possible the levels of some of these ingredients may be increasing in certain products, many do the racy marketing but don't 'upgrade' the formula in any meaningful way."

Cocaine ingredients include 280mg of caffeine, 750mg of taurine, 100mg of inositol, B vitamins, 50mg of L-carnitine, 250mg of D-ribose, and 25mg of guarana.

The US energy-drinks market is estimated to be worth about $4 billion.

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