Monster Energy hit US markets in 2002 and helped establish the energy drink stereotype: “energy drinks are dangerous concoctions with high amounts of caffeine and sugar”. It’s hard to deny this stereotype is still applicable, however, there are a growing number of caffeinated beverages which don’t fit this mold. What happens when one of the energy drink companies responsible for the Energy Drink Boom comes out with one of these not-quite-an-energy-drink alternatives?
I declared myself a biochemistry/chemistry major in 2003 – right at the beginning of the Energy Drink Boom. Fascinated by these drinks and all the fears surrounding their use, I’ve applied my education (and basically all my free time) toward understanding the science behind energy drinks and their ingredients. After 10+ years in this field, I believe parents have a right to be concerned about energy drinks, but that concern needs the right context to do anybody any good. How concerned should we be about the safety of Caffe Monster Energy Coffee?
I declared myself a biochemistry/chemistry major in 2003 – right at the beginning of the Energy Drink Boom. Fascinated by these drinks and all the fears surrounding their use, I’ve applied my education (and basically all my free time) toward understanding the science behind energy drinks and their ingredients. In 2003, energy drinks contained synthetic caffeine as well as caffeine extracts from guarana and yerba mate. While synthetic caffeine was often criticized for being synthetic, guarana and yerba mate were often criticized for being “dangerous stimulants”. Then along came green coffee bean extract and coffeeberry/coffee fruit. As a caffeine consumer, you may be wondering, what is it about green coffee beans and coffeeberry that make it special? I encourage you to geek out with me over these game-changing energy drink ingredients.
Here’s a recap of the quick reviews posted this month for the “Science of Energy Drinks” series on the GreenEyedGuide Instagram and Facebook pages: Bai Sparkling Antioxidant Infusion, Cocaine Energy, and Monster Ultra Violet.
You know that scene in Wall-E where he tries to put the spork in the right pile? (Fork? Not quite. Spoon? Not quite. Okay then just set it in the middle.) Wall-E’s struggle in this scene is actually a very real problem for the makers and consumers of caffeinated beverages.
If health writers want to know if products like Mio and Crystal Lite stick packs have increased water consumption, what should count as “water”? When does water stop being water? When parents want to know if minors are drinking fewer energy drinks, do we include the caffeinated waters? It’s not really an energy drink, is it?
At GreenEyedGuide.com, we’ve been highlighting “energy drinks in disguise” for a long time. When Beverage World came out with their list of Beverage Disruptors, I was very happy to see a few familiar faces. These “disruptors” are not just causing classification problems, they’re creating sporks.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A DISRUPTOR?
In the fitness world, we say, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t CHANGE you!” Beverage World’s list of beverage disruptors features “people driving the enormous degree of change that’s reshaping the beverage business.” These people are driving change and breaking stereotypes. If I had GreenEyedGuide jackets to distribute, these people would be in my club for sure.
MEET THE SPORKS
1—Avitae (Norman Snyder)
Food Dive predicted a trend in 2016 of a DECREASE in sugar-sweetened beverages and the INCREASE in tea and water. Food Dive also reported that caffeinated water will impact not just soda consumption, but energy drink consumption as well! Avitae is the ace up one’s sleeve in any “energy drinks are toxic” debate because this product is water and caffeine. It’s certainly closer to water than anything else, but it serves to both hydrate and energize. Oh sure, we can use the incredibly vague term “Functional Beverage” to categorize products like this. But if the function is to provide energy, it is an energy drink. [Avitae was the Energy Drink of the Month for April 2014 and April 2015]
2 – Bai (Ben Weiss)
Take the press’ love for the word “superfruit” and the public’s love for coffee, then sprinkle in the food scientists’ concern for reducing food waste and VOILA! Behold, the coffee fruit, or “coffeeberry” as it’s also known.
Bai poses problems for juice and water categories as well. It’s only a tiny faction (<10%) juice, but it’s more,…well…exciting than water. Guess we’ll call this one another “Functional Beverage”, but what, exactly, is the function? Hydration? Not quite. Delivery of antioxidants. Kinda. Energy. With 78 mg of caffeine per bottle, this is another energy drink in disguise! [Bai was the Energy Drink of the Month for February 2016]
3 — Runa (Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie)
In a world where cell phone carriers constantly slander their competition to improve sales, Runa sells their primary ingredient to their competition! Runa’s mission is to “lift the living standards of the Ecuadorian farmers who harvest the company’s supply of guayusa leaves” (Beverage World Jan 2016). Therefore, the more people who buy the leaves, the better. So even when you buy Runa’s competitors, Runa wins. [Runa was the Energy Drink of the Month for February 2015]
4 – Steaz (Eric Schnell)
Steaz co-founder Eric Schnell is on the Beverage World disruptor’s list for his current entrepreneurial efforts, but it’s worth noting that he first made the Beverage Disruptors list with the production of Steaz. Steaz is soda and tea, hence the clever name. It’s “green-tea soda”, and it’s organic-certified.
Organic green-tea soda. Did you ever think those words together would make sense (or cents)? [Steaz was Energy Drink of the Month for January 2015]
5 – Elite Ops Energy Strips (Ray Welch)
These caffeinated versions of those convenient Listerine dissolvable strips aren’t beverages, so they could not make the Beverage World disruptors list. However I would be amiss if I didn’t include these game-changers in my own list. I haven’t seen anything like these strips, but they are absolutely essential for long drives, sequential flights, and boring lectures. These are what you use when you want the caffeine boost without opening that tell-tale PSST of an energy drink, the long wait for gross-yet-pricy convention center coffee, or the concentrated caffeine delivery of an energy shot. [Elite Ops Energy Strips were Energy Drink (alternative) for September 2015]
Sept 2015 Energy Drink alternative of the Month
I was just starting college when Monster Energy came along. Back then I had twopart time jobs and the determination to get my Biochemistry degree in four years. Nowadays, my energy needs have evolved, just like the needs of so many other energy drink consumers. The modern energy drink consumer is looking for energy drinks with added functionality such as hydration and extra protein, says Mintel research (Beverage World Jan 2016), Fortunately, for caffeine lovers everywhere, the energy drink market is evolving to meet our needs. My challenge to you is to consider these disruptors next time someone implies that (all) energy drinks are the same.
Bai Antioxidant Infusion is one of those “energy drinks in disguise” I love reviewing because it breaks the norm AND withstands a food scientist’s ingredient scrutiny. Bai Antioxidant Infusion (HENCEFORTH ‘B.A.I.’) is an “energy drink in disguise’ with only 35 mg caffeine, and a novel blend of white tea, polyphenols, and coffeefruit extract. Coffeefruit is not an ingredient many people have heard of, but its story of discovery is a shining example to those concerned about food waste. After reviewing the food science of B.A.I.’s most interesting ingredients, we’ll compare the “healthiness” of this product to other tea-based beverages and similar energy drinks.