Interestingly enough, a lot of how they have grown so popular might surprise you.

Though every brand is different, the majority of energy drinks contain some of the same general ingredients: methylxanthines, B vitamins, a mix of exotic herbal ingredients (commonly ginseng, guarana, and taurine), large amounts of sugar, and the resulting high levels of caffeine.

As one online blogger states, though, a lot of what energy drinks are made of is “marketing.”

In fact, over 200 new energy drinks hit store shelves in 2006, according to the market research firm ACNielsen, and there’s no telling how many we could find on our convenience store shelves nowadays.

Led by such brands as Red Bull, Rockstar, and Monster, energy drinks are currently a $3.7 billion industry whose revenues have increased by 51 percent in the past year alone. Many energy drinks have names that convey strength, power, speed, and sterility (such as "Full Throttle", "Impulse", and "Pimp Juice"), and many seem to be marketed primarily to a male, 18-30 crowd. Most brands have their own websites that reflect the image emphasis of the brand (heavy rockers, skaters/BMX riders, hip hop, etc.), and often include appropriate background music, sports and celebrity photos from promotional/sponsored events, "energy drink babes", and downloadable wallpapers. Generally speaking, energy drinks are marketed towards young people, such as students pulling all-nighters, movers and shakers "on the go" and those who play sports.

In addition, manufacturers often add a very small dose of a powerful stimulant such as carnitine, but the doses of these and the other add-ins are usually so small that any added "boost" or “pick-up” is purely psychological. Despite exotic formulations, the energy boost in these drinks is usually delivered via the whopping dose of common caffeine, which could be acquired by simply drinking a couple cups of “black” coffee.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see energy drinks in a different light. And while there’s nothing extremely detrimental to one’s health in ingesting the cocktail of ingredients (unless, of course, you qualify as one of the “warning” risks listed on many of the drink’s labels), the real harm comes in the form of their high, over-the-counter price.

Luke Short
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Posted on 2/2/14
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