If you eat breakfast at 6am, is the meal you eat at 10am really lunch? Not wanting to feel like a Hobbit with Second Breakfast and Elevenses, I wanted an energy drink that would help me wake up without irritating an empty stomach; one that wouldn’t replace the breakfast I intended to have at 8am and one that wouldn’t require me to wait in a long line. At my local 7-11, I found a product that did the trick.

The Energy Drink of the Month for August 2014 is Arriba Horchata Energy.

Energy Drink of the Month Horchata
Energy Drink of the Month

I am naming this Energy Drink of the Month not because I want to encourage more people to drink it, but because I find this product fascinating in my adorable, dorky food scientist sort-of-way.

WHAT IS HORCHATA

Don’t mention Vampire Weekend. According to the dictionary:

definition by Oxford Dictionary
definition by Oxford Dictionary

INGREDIENT PANEL ASSESSMENT

1-SERVINGS PER CONTAINER

Have you ever eaten a bag of chips and realized later that one bag was supposed to be 3 servings? I hate that. Always check the Servings per Container. Checking that first will put the rest of these point in context.

2-CAFFEINE

For any product featuring the word “ENERGY” on the label, always look for a caffeine statement and where the caffeine (if any) is coming from. In this case, there are 76mg of caffeine, and it comes from guarana (the 7th ingredient in the ingredient’s list). To learn more about where guarana comes from, what green tea extract and guarana have in common and what dosages of guarana are safe, see this energy drink guide.

3-SUGAR

Always check the amount of sugar per serving (and per container). There’s a whopping 38g of sugar in this one can, and all of it comes from Sugar. I try to limit my added sugars and some days I’m more successful than others. I know this product is not going to help me reach that goal for the day, but I’m committed to trying this product at least once.

After my first few sips of the product, I decided 38g was too much; it was way too sweet for me (and all my colleagues in Product Development would tell you that’s really saying something). If Arriba made a lower-sugar version of this I’d be all over it. But alas…

Horchata Nutrition Facts Panel
Horchata Nutrition Facts Panel

4-B VITAMINS

There are quite a few B-vitamins in the product but unfortunately none of them are included with the Daily Value percentages on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Here are the vitamins included, and some notes pulled from Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely

Calcium D-Pantothenate = vitamin B5; note “pantothen” in Greek means everywhere, and this vitamin is so abundant in every food group that no one has ever had a pantothenic acid deficiency.

Niacinaminde = vitamin B3; note niacin deficiency, pellagra or Mal de la Rosa reached epidemic proportion is the USA in the early 1900s.

Pyridoxine HCl = vitamin B6; note this vitamin participates in over 100 chemical reaction on the body but consuming over 100mg per day (5,000% DV) can cause nerve damage.

Thiamin mononitrate = vitamin B1; note thiamin deficiency is called beriberi which means “I can’t, I can’t” in Sri Lanka.

Folic acid; note folic acid is the poster-child for vitamin fortification success.

D-Biotin; note biotin is a key player in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.

Cyanocobalamin = vitamin B12; note B12 can be a hurdle to Veganism because plants don’t make it; all B12 is made via fermentation of bacteria, fungi or algae (side-note: algae ingredients like spirulina and chlorella can be vegan sources of B12).

5-Carageenan

Yes, this product contains carrageenan, which is a thickening agent like Xanthan Gum (Read The Xanthan Gum Disaster here). Carageenan may be a controversial ingredient but I don’t believe there is cause for panic. Some useful, credible resources for reference:

In “Harmful or Harmless: Carrageenan”, Chris Kresser points out that there are two types of carrageenan, and the one most associated with harm is not the form used as an effective thickener.

Chris Kresser on Carrageenan
Chris Kresser on Carrageenan

The European Commission Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General, Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) states that intakes of carrageenan are of no concern if the amount consumed is below the No Observed Effects Level (NOEL) of 750 mg per kilogram body weight per day. (Read the complete Opinion of SCF on Carageenan – free, here)

QUALITY QUESTIONS

Because I am a Quality Assurance professional (and I can’t help myself), when I look at a product like this and the lack of information on their website, I ask questions. I can’t help but wonder, How big is this company? Do they have a HACCP plan to ensure product safety? Do they do microbiological testing on incoming ingredients? What tests do they do on the finished product before it’s cleared for release/shipping?

HACCP basics
HACCP basics – http://www.gjfood.com/haccp

Bottom Line

Due to the sugar content, lack of B-vitamin information and lack of information on the company making this product, I would not encourage consumption. Nor would I discourage anyone who wanted to try it as an alternative to another energy drink or coffee beverage.

Additional Resources

Arriba Horchata Energy main page

Caffeine Content in Arriba Horchata Energy – Caffeine Informer

Advertisements