Though some media outlets continue to paint all energy drinks with the same brush, the number of “energy drinks in disguise” is growing. Unless you’re at an airport, it’s getting easier to find an energy drink with less-than-extreme amounts of caffeine, no sugar, and no artificial colors or ingredients. You might even know someone who’s tried to sell you an energy drink that can only be found online [buyer beware].
With the number of energy options increasing, it’s growing more important to learn what distinguishes one energy drink from another. Through every Energy Drink of the Month post, we review the tools you need to consume caffeine safely, and discuss how to tell if an energy drink is right for you — as in YOUR lifestyle and diet goals, and YOUR current energy needs or “Level of Fatigue”.
If someone asked you to draw a Venn diagram showing energy drink consumers and loyal Jamba Juice customers, how much would those two groups overlap? If you are familiar with my Energy Drink of the Month blog posts, you know by now that all energy drinks are notcreated equal. Some don’t fit the mold, and there are many “energy-drinks-in-disguise” at your local grocery store and/or gas station. This month’s pick is another energy-drink-in-disguise.
The Energy Drink of the Month for September 2014 is Jamba Blueberry Pomegranate.
7 Thoughts on Jamba Energy
1-There’s pictures of blueberries and pomegranates on the label…alert the press!
Since this is the first image I have of the product, we’ll start here. Whether or not you’re in the food industry, you might’ve heard the news story about Pom Wonderful suing Coca Cola over a pomegranate blueberry juice blend. The excerpt below from a Nutritional Outlook article explains the problem (click here for full article):
POM Wonderful is suing Coke, alleging that the company deceptively uses the words pomegranate and blueberry on its Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry 100% Fruit Juice Blend label, when in fact the drink contains very little pomegranate and blueberry juice… On his show, Oliver joked that “one of Coke’s actual arguments this week in the Supreme Court is that they’re allowed to give their product a name that refers to juices that provide the characterizing flavor—an argument that has the characterizing flavor of bullsh*t.”
Full (hilarious and informative) John Oliver video here
With the can now in hand, we move from these prominent images to the next point.
2-Look at where pomegranate and blueberry are located on the ingredient line.
Surprise, surprise, neither pomegranates nor blueberries are the first ingredient in the ingredient list. Water is the first ingredient, followed by apple juice concentrate (and that’s significant when we get to point 4). The good news is pomegranates and blueberries are not last on the ingredient list, so they are not added in “fairy dust amounts” in order to make it onto the label.
3-Even fruit puree/juice drinks need natural flavors.
Since I have had the pleasure of working closely with flavor houses as a product developer, I never panic when I see the phrase “natural flavors”. I’m not sure where the food blog activists got their ammunition to freak out over natural flavors, especially since “natural” used to be the magic word of acceptability to many other consumers. With a product like this, natural flavors are necessary. Caffeine is bitter, and fruit purees are not potent enough by themselves to convey the intended flavor. The biggest concern with natural flavors is not their safety, it’s finding the right flavor for the intended consumer. Many people don’t realize what a challenge this can be.
For example, when a food scientist says to a flavor chemist, “I want the product to taste like strawberries”, the flavor chemist has to navigate through a wide spectrum to find the right flavor profile. Should it be a jammy strawberry? Artificial or candy-like strawberry? Creamy like strawberry yogurt? Juicy like fresh-picked strawberries? The possibilities are more numerous anyone could imagine, and it requires thinking outside the box.
4-There’s a lot of sugar but consider the source.
A glance through the ingredient line shows no sugars are added. The sweetness of this drink comes from the naturally occurring sugars in the juices and purees, topped off by the natural sweetener Stevia. I like seeing Stevia on the label as opposed to artificial sugars. I don’t believe artificial sweeteners are bad for you (they are in moderation — see Panera Project KNOW-No List), but I’d rather consume natural sweeteners than artificial. For me, it is a preference, not a fear.
Moving our eyes up the label from the ingredients line to the Nutrition Facts Panel we see there are 20 grams of sugar per serving, and it’s all coming from the fruit juices. This discovery is the make-or-break moment for me. I try to limit excess sugars wherever possible, so this amount of sugar is almost enough to make me put the drink back on the shelf. It’s not like raw blueberries are sugar-free, but eating raw blueberries is different than consuming a blueberry juice-flavored product. Since my objective today is to get an energy boost, not fight free radicals, I’ll look past the sugar content.
5-The caffeine content makes this Fatigue Level 2.
I am consuming Jamba’s energy drink for an energy boost, not to boost my freggie count for the day. Thankfully the caffeine content is prominently displayed on the can, 80 mg per container. This is the same amount of caffeine that’s in an 8 oz Red Bull. At the time of the evaluation, this amount of caffeine PERFECT for my Level of Fatigue. Level 2= 2 Tired to Go It Alone.. I know my fatigue is not due to dehydration/boredom, which is Fatigue Level 1, but I only need a little boost of caffeine.
6-Want to avoid caffeine toxicity and dependency? Look for energy drinks that come with juice.
Carbonation is added to this product but energy drinks with juice are not as carbonated as their juice-less counterparts. The ways juice and carbonation affect the perceived energy boost is something I discuss in detail in the Energy Drink Guide. In this case, I just need a little boost, not a big energy kick, so the juice is a good indication this product will suit my Level of Fatigue.
According to Caffeine Informer, the natural caffeine in this product comes from green tea extract.
I can tell by the marketing blurb on the side of the can that the intended consumer is one who is trying to avoid the stereotypical energy drink. “Pure and simple”, this energy drink has a clean label and is a good alternative to many other energy products. There is no added sugar; it’s coming all from the fruit juices. If the sugar content is a deal-breaker, consider this: sugar-free Red Bull has the same amount of caffeine — 80 mg. Personally, I would rather drink a Jamba energy drink than a sugar-free Red Bull (though only if the line at Jamba was short).