Energy drink review calls for tighter regulation

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Energy drinks, Energy drink

A review of the energy market in an IFT journal has called for tighter regulation to protect consumers and the industry from irresponsible marketing and ever more extreme drinks.

Writing in an Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) journal called Comprehensive Reviews of Food Science and Food Safety​, scientists from the University of Illinois sought to give a detailed overview of the current state of play in the energy drink market.

The paper looks at the rapid growth in energy drink consumption since the concept first hit US shores in a big way in 1997 when Red Bull was introduced. It tracks both the evolution of their target market and their ingredients but also contains a warning about the need for improved regulation.

Regulation

So far the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not put any restrictions on the amount of caffeine that goes into energy drinks and there are no special labelling requirements like there are in the EU.

The authors of the latest study said there is now a need to amend this with warning labels and an upper limit on caffeine similar to the one in place for cola beverages. Fleshing out the reasons for this, they pointed to ever more highly caffeinated drinks coming onto the market outside of the mainstream.

“Enhanced regulations may rid the ‘extreme,’ highly caffeinated energy drinks from store shelves and thus protect consumers,” ​stated the University of Illinois scientists.

They also said the need for regulatory action is amplified by the spread of energy drinks to more diverse segments of the population, including children.

Market evolution

The energy drinks market in the US has developed very fast and is constantly evolving. According to Datamonitor, from almost nothing in 1997, energy drinks have grown to the point that they hold a 62 percent share of the functional beverages market, and their market share continues to grow.

While a small section of the market is pushing more extreme drinks that raise safety concerns and prompt calls for regulation, the more mainstream energy drink market is going for a healthier breed of beverages.

“New developments geared toward increasing the health functionality of energy drinks will gain market acceptance due to an increasingly health-driven society,”​ said lead author E. Gonzalez de Mejia of the University of Illinois

The author said companies are also trying to reach niche submarkets and differentiate themselves from their competition. Such submarkets include energy drinks just for woman, the carbohydrate conscious, body-builders, or extreme sports enthusiasts.

Source: Comprehensive Reviews of Food Science and Food Safety
Energy Drinks: An Assessment of Their Market Size, Consumer Demographics, Ingredient Profile, Functionality, and Regulations in the United States
Authors: M.A. Heckman, K. Sherry, and E. Gonzalez de Mejia

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