The Sporks of the Beverage World – Why Caffeine Lovers Should Root for Disruption

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.

NFL = National Food Lab
NFL = National Food Lab

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.

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]

Avitae Caffeinated Flavored water
Avitae Caffeinated Water was Energy Drink of the Month 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]

Caffeine Informer Bai Antioxidant Infusion caffeine content
Source: CaffeineInformer.com’s phenomenal, massive caffeine database. Bai was the Energy Drink of the Month for Feb 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]

Energy Drink of the Month GreenEyedGuide Runa
Runa uses guayusa leaves as the source of caffeine. Runa was the Energy Drink of the Month for Feb 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]

Steaz Organic Blueberry Pomegranate Iced Tea Energy Drink of the Month
Steaz Organic Blueberry Pomegranate Iced Tea 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]

BOTTOM LINE

I was just starting college when Monster Energy came along. Back then I had two part 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.

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Year’s Reflection on Energy Drink of the Month — August 2015

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”.

Energy Drink of the Month — A Year’s Reflection

Read more

Energy Drink of the Month — February 2015: Runa Clean Energy

When it comes to food, I’m not a fan of the term “clean energy”. I get what this term is trying to convey, but as a food scientist, the term makes me laugh inside. Same thing with the concept of a “zero-calorie energy drink” (because a calorie is a measurement of energy). “Food Science v Marketing” rant over, let me tell you about a new source of “clean energy”.

The Energy Drink for the Month of February is Runa Clean Energy.

Energy Drink of the Month GreenEyedGuide Runa
Energy Drink of the Month — February 2015

The Berry flavor is my favorite (shocker, if you’ve been following my other monthly picks). I prefer not to drink my calories, but I much prefer the sweetness of the Berry flavor than the zero-calorie version. I tried the “Original Zero with a hint of lime” and, my word, it has an interesting flavor profile. It starts with a carbonated zing akin to citric acid, then the hint of lime shows up, followed by some earthly botanical notes that are reminiscent of iced tea but slightly different, and not unpleasant. The berry flavor is much more my style – short, sweet, and subtly strong.

5 Reasons to Recharge with Runa Clean Energy

ONE — Alternative Energy

Ever heard of guayusa? Pronounced “gwhy-you-sa”, this plant is the Amazonian cousin of yerba mate. While the leaves of guayusa are brewed like tea leaves, the lack of tannins means less of the bitter, astringent taste that’s characteristic of green, black and white teas.

This new source of caffeine has two benefits: First of all, yerba mate and guarana have developed negative connotations due to their use in energy drinks (and the controversy surrounding them). If you want to avoid the bitter taste of tea and the “save-your-liver” lectures from those who believe all energy drinks are bad for you, this new source of caffeine is your answer. The second benefit to guayusa is that because it’s novel, there are less people trying to source it and thus, more of it to go around. When demand of ginkgo biloba started to skyrocket, so did the cases of economic adulteration. Not enough supply to meet demand? Someone’s going to start providing knock-offs to reap those unmet sales requests. Finding new sources of America’s favorite drug (caffeine), means there’s less chance of depleting natural resources.

TWO — Caffeine with a Cause

I love energy drinks with a good story. There are some energy drinks that donate proceeds of each sale to charity, and then there are those who give back in other ways. Runa is fair-trade certified, and supports the small farmers and local communities to build a sustainable supply chain. To learn more about the Runa Foundation, see below.

Runa Foundation
http://www.fundacionruna.org/our-work.html

THREE — Guayusa Your Way

A big part of consuming caffeine safely is about slowing your rate of consumption. In the Energy Drink Guide, Mr. Swift and Mr. Thrift demonstrate that nursing your caffeine instead of chugging it makes the effects of caffeine last longer, and helps mitigate an energy crash. While Runa Clean Energy comes in an 8.4 ounce can, there’s also a bottled version. If you’re trying to wean your caffeine intake, you can take a sip, reseal the bottle, and try to make one serving last a whole day (or two). Note – the glass bottles show a bit of particulate at the bottom so if you’re a “no-pulp” person like me, the cans might be a better option. You could also get fancy with your brewing and try the pyramid infusers or looseleaf tins, or just go the traditional route and get a box of tea bags.

Runa Clean Energy and Other Guayusa Produts
The Runa Family – http://runa.org/products/#Products

FOUR — Polyphenols (antioxidants), Amino Acids, and Liquid Courage

While isolated antioxidants have failed to show the same health benefits in the human body as they do in a test tube, there’s plenty of credible evidence on the health benefits of drinking green tea. Guayusa contains twice the antioxidants of green tea, according to the Runa website. The “super-leaf” also contains essential amino acids (though the energy drink itself contains zero grams of protein). If none of that encourages you to try Runa Clean Energy, perhaps this will: traditional use of guayusa includes consumption before nighttime hunting trips, as the guayusa gave the hunters mental strength, courage and focus. Who doesn’t want more of that?

FIVE — 5 Levels of Fatigue = Level 3.99

Knowing your Level of Fatigue will help you find the right energy drink for your situation. Always reaching for the same caffeine concoction is a good way to build a tolerance or habitual craving. Furthermore, you can mitigate caffeine over-consumption by NOT reaching for caffeine when you are tired due to dehydration, or when you’re so tired that only sleep will save you. This is the 5 Levels of Fatigue system, and each level matches a specific set of recommendations.

Caffeine Informer Runa Clean Energy
If this is too much caffeine for you, the bottled versions have less caffeine and can be re-sealed and saved for later.

Runa Clean Energy provides more caffeine than the most popular energy drink of this size. If 80 milligrams of caffeine isn’t enough for you, or if you want something that tastes a little more like tea and less like over-sweetened juice, Runa Clean Energy is a good option. However, it is on the very cusp of Level 3. Caffeine contents greater than 120 milligrams per serving are considered Level 4, but the lack of carbonation is the reason Runa Clean Energy is still on the high end of Level 3. Carbonation irritates the stomach lining slightly, allowing caffeine to get absorbed that much quicker. You’ll want to save those Level 4 drinks for energy emergencies like all-nighters, swing shifts, and long road trips.

Bottom Line

Runa Clean Energy is not the energy drink you should reach for when you are bored or dehydrated. With 120 milligrams of caffeine per serving, it is best saved for those Monday mornings when you would give up $100 if it meant sleeping one more hour. It’s no coincidence Runa means “fully alive”. Runa Clean Energy is an energy drink you can feel good about drinking, not just because it’s rich in antioxidants, but because the makers of Runa are actively supporting the guayusa farmers to ensure fair-trade and sustainable growth. Finally, when someone inquires about that beverage you’re drinking with the healthy looking leaf on the can, you’ll get encouraging nods (or blank stares) instead of concerned frowns when you respond, “It’s ‘gwhy-you-sa’ “.

— Green-Eyed Guide

References and Related Reading:

Caffeine Informer on Runa Clean Energy

National Geographic: “Ecuador’s ‘Superleaf’ Tea: Could it Replace Your Afternoon Coffee?”

Runa Main Site and Runa Facebook Page

Caffeine Safe Limits: Determine Your Safe Daily Dose

5 Most Shocking Risk Assessments (***including ginkgo biloba***)

Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely