VODKA mixers. Hangover remedies. Serious jolts of caffeine. However they are used, so-called energy drinks have quickly become the elixirs of choice for teenagers nagers and young adults too hip for espressos, colas and fancy teas.
The drinks – which consist mostly of sugar, water and caffeine, but also a variety of vitamins, herbs and supposedly energy-enhancing extracts – have overtaken bottled water as the fastest-growing segment of the beverage industry. Beverage companies are rushing into this $1 billion market to grab share from Red Bull, the pioneer in the field, whose drinks went on sale in the United States seven years ago. And they need no other lure than young consumers’ willingness to buy 8-ounce cans of energy drinks for at least two times the cost of a 12-ounce cola.
Red Bull sells only two products – its original energy drink and a sugar-free version, introduced last year. It uses a minimum of national television advertising, focusing its marketing on sponsorships of extreme-sports events and athletes, and lobbying bars, clubs and other retail outlets to sell its products.
WHAT has made Red Bull and other energy drinks so popular among their target market -18- to 25-year-old men – is the drinks’ caffeine-enhanced buzz, analysts say. An 8-ounce serving typically has about 80 milligrams of caffeine, about the same as a cup of coffee and more than twice as much as a 12-ounce can of Pepsi or Coke.