Energy Drinks Not So Good for You

August 31, 2009
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Despite warnings about potentially dangerous ingredients, energy drinks aren't getting any healthier. But a few better-for-you introductions in the energy drink category could lead the way to a healthier trend.

New research from Chicago-based Mintel International finds that despite warnings about potentially dangerous ingredients, energy drinks aren't getting any healthier.

According to the company's Global New Products Database (GNPD), sales of energy drinks shot up 240 percent between 2004 and 2009, prompting a 110 percent jump in new product launches. But an analysis of energy drink ingredients revealed few changes: Nearly all energy drinks introduced during the past five years still contain caffeine, and the number that contain taurine, another controversial energy-boosting ingredient, declined only slightly, from 27 percent in 2004 to 21 percent in 2008.

"There is a significant market right now for drinks offering a boost of energy," said Lynn Dornblaser, Mintel's global new products expert. "Although consumers say they try to eat and drink better, it appears that energy drinks is not a category in which that happens, as they continue to choose options that contain sugar, caffeine and taurine, all of which can have negative effects if consumed in excess."

Although a handful of suppliers have introduced more healthful energy drinks, they're definitely in the minority, Mintel reported. The number of energy drinks with a "low-, no- or reduced-calorie" claim increased from just 6 percent in 2004 to 11 percent last year, while the number of energy drinks with a "low-, no- or reduced-sugar" claim held steady at about one in seven. The appearance of better-for-you energizers such as vitamin B6 and guarana, which appeared in 22 percent and 12 percent of new product launches, respectively, also was flat.

But according to Mintel, Ocean Spray's 2008 introduction of Cranergy Energy Drinks offers some hope for a healthier future in the energy drinks category. Billed as "naturally energizing" and clinically proven to improve alertness, the drinks contain real fruit juice blended with natural energizers such as vitamin B, vitamin C and green tea extract. Another new product, Bazza High-Energy Tea, combines green tea with EGCG antioxidants to produce a "smarter, high-energy alternative."

"These new, natural energy-enhancing products could threaten to steal share from their less healthy counterparts, Dornblaser said. “Often, they're not sold in the energy drinks aisle, but in the juice or alternative beverage aisle, which may protect them from the unhealthy stigma some consumers associate with energy drinks."

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