High Energy Drinks

There is a development in the world of soft drinks that may be taking up residence in a supermarket near you in the near future. The success of the high energy drink "Red Bull" has prompted other major beverage manufacturers to join the race for dominance in this emerging market for performance enhancing drinks.

I first learned of this new product when Newsweek carried a full page story on it in its May 14th edition. Intrigued by what I read, I decided to check out the Richmond scene to determine to what extent these drinks had appeared in the local market.

My first stop was at a Food Lion and I was pleased when I found none. But at a convenience store just down the street, I found two of the three newcomers in this battle for supremacy in the competition for the all night revellers' and extreme athletes' dollars.

Not only did the convenience store have Red Bull, they had KMX ( Coca Cola ), Adrenaline Rush ( Pepsi ) and 180 ( Budweiser). The 8 oz cans were in a special holder attached to the door of the cooler, clearly the prime location in the refrigeration unit. You couldn't miss them if you tried. The price for the three was a standard $1.99 each. I asked the cashier if there was any regulation of the product and he said, "not to his knowledge." I asked if he would sell the product to a 5 year old if they attempted to buy it and he said yes.

Now you might be wondering why I'm going to the trouble of writing about this new drink when new products are introduced into the market place every day. My concern is based on the fact that the drinks are marketed as energy providers which immediately makes them attractive to young people and more disturbing is the fact that these drinks may become status symbols similar to what has taken place with bottled water. A blind test was conducted in Times Square last week among persons who were regular consumers of bottled water. They had 3 well know brand named bottled waters and New York City tap water in the test Guess what. The NYC tap water was chosen as the best tasting and it wasn't even close. When the bottled water drinkers were asked if the test would cause them to change their water drinking habits, without exception, they said the results of the test would not change their choice of drinking water. Now the test did not deal with which water is the purest, only the taste but it suggests something I have suspected for some time. Clearly, some of the bottled water drinkers drink bottled water because it has become a status symbol of sorts. It makes a statement about the carrier of the bottle. Look at me. I'm hip and I care about my body and I have the money to prove it.

Some say, don't worry about it. Kids have always had access to No-Doz and we all know that most soft drinks are loaded with caffeine. I was shocked several years ago when I accidentally discovered that Mountain Dew had the reputation among children and young adults for having the highest level of caffeine of any soft drink. They could only know this from experience or word of mouth because the label does not list the amount of caffeine in the drink, only that it is one of the ingredients.

Why would anybody pay $1.99 for an 8 oz. drink with a funny taste if there wasn't something different about the drink? Why would the producers of the drink advertise that the drink will give you more energy if if fact it didn't? I asked one of the clerks in the convenience store if anyone in the store had consumed one of the drinks and was told that one clerk had and said for about 5 minutes she couldn't feel any effect. Then it kicked in and she was reported to be bouncing off the ceiling.

To give you some idea of the strength of the new drinks, they are approximately twice as strong as Mountain Dew according to Newsweek. Nothing was included in the article about Verve which I understand is even stronger than the high energy drinks.

So if nothing else, be aware that these new drinks exist and parents might want to monitor their childrens' allowance money more carefully. Just for fun, ask some of your adult friends if they are familiar with the high energy drinks. I'm not sure you can rely on the results of queries to children since they have their own little world and they aren't about to let you in. I'm not nearly as concerned about the fact that these drinks exist as I am that they will become fashionable. If they really catch on ( current annual sales $80 million ), I'll bet some enterprising individual will come up with fake cans so kids can really fool their parents. Prestige without running afoul of parents.

In the meantime, I think I will just have a Cheerwine and a Krispy Kreme. Have you seen what has happened to KK stock in the last few weeks? Fortunately, I was able to acquire a few shares before the dramatic rise in price began. My broker called this morning and asked if he could borrow my crystal ball. True story.