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Energy drinks are hot, but healthy?

While consumers usually say they are trying to eat and drink better, that is clearly not the case when it comes to their selection of energy drinks, according to data from Mintel's Global New Products Database.

Nearly all energy drinks launched between 2004 and 2008 contained caffeine, Mintel reported. Taurine, another popular yet controversial energy-boosting ingredient, was found in 27 per cent of energy drinks in 2004, and 21 per cent in 2008.

"There is a significant market right now for drinks offering a boost of energy," said Lynn Dornblaser, Mintel global new products expert. "Consumers continue to choose options that contain sugar, caffeine and taurine, all of which can have negative effects if consumed in excess."

Despite these unhealthy trends, the category continues to grow, with sales increasing more than 240 per cent from 2004 to 2009. In the same timeframe, new product launches are up by more than 110 per cent. Some of these new drinks do boast more health-focused claims, but they are in the minority.

Energy drinks showing a 'low, no or reduced' calorie claim have increased from six per cent to 11 per cent between 2004 and 2008. Energy drinks featuring a 'low, no or reduced' sugar claim have held steady at one in seven new launches.

Meanwhile, better-for-you energizers like vitamin B6 and guarana have remained flat, appearing in approximately 22 per cent and 12 per cent of new launches, respectively.

Better-for-you energy drinks
Unlike traditional energy drinks, which target the male 18-24 demographic, the 'better-for-you' drinks target those over 35. Some claim to provide a 'safe' boost of energy, while others promote their natural, organic or sugar-free qualities.

Recent launches include:

  • Ocean Spray's line of Cranergy Energy Drinks billed as "naturally energizing." The line contains real fruit juice blended with natural energizers, including five B vitamins, vitamin C and green-tea extract.
  • Bazza High-Energy Tea, made from green tea and EGCG antioxidants, billed as the "smarter high-energy alternative."
  • The new ElectriFire Healthy Energy Drink (from ForeverGreen). It claims to be an exclusive combination of safe energy and natural health products that uses ForeverGreen's patent-pending technology to take natural plant concentrates and render them water soluble, so they're instantly absorbed. ElectriFire uses only natural, clean and organic ingredients for instant energy that lasts for hours.
  • Xenergy (from Xyience). This is a line of zero-calorie, zero-sugar, vitamin-fortified energy drinks made with natural flavours and colours.
  • FRS Healthy Energy Drink. It claims to extend the body's natural energy without jitters or crashes. FRS is made with quercetin, a natural antioxidant found in blueberries and apples that helps extend the body's natural adrenaline and neutralize the oxidants in the body that cause fatigue. FRS also contains antioxidants from green-tea leaves and vitamins.
  • Guayakí Yerba Mate Organic Energy Shot. It is now available in a chocolate-raspberry flavour. The line contains USDA-certified organic blends of superfood extracts.
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