Survey of a dozen energy drink companies conducted by lawmakers finds ninety percent of the market unwilling to commit to adolescent protections
Washington (January 9, 2015) – In the latest step in their ongoing investigation into the energy drink industry, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today released a new report: “Buzz Kill: A Survey of Popular Energy Drinks Finds Majority of the Market Unwilling to Make Commitments to Protect Adolescents” that reveals that while energy drink companies have made great progress in terms of eliminating marketing and promotion activities that target children under the age of 12 and children in K-12school settings, they refuse to take similar steps to voluntarily stop outreach and marketing to teenagers. The report also reveals that energy drink companies are blurring the lines between the two categories of energy drinks and sports drinks, producing products that are marketed as helping with rehydration and electrolyte balance, but that also contain high levels of caffeine and other specialty energy drink ingredients.
In fall 2013, following a July hearing on energy drinks held by the Senate Commerce Committee, the Senators sent letters to 16 companies that produce major energy drink brands to assess the extent to which the energy drink industry as a whole will commit to voluntary measures that will better protect young consumers and prevent misuse. Twelve companies responded and the report provides additional information about what is currently known about the health concerns of energy drinks and how these products are marketed.
“Unfortunately, a minority of companies who drive the majority of energy drink sales has refused to make any commitments that would protect teenagers from potentially dangerous marketing and promotion activities,” states the report. “Unfortunately, as long as early development of brand loyalty is seen as a competitive market advantage, energy drink companies will continue with the practice of marketing to teens in the absence of regulation that prohibits it.”
“It is time for these energy drink companies to stand up as good corporate citizens and agree to measures for appropriate marketing and consumption of their products, especially to teens,” said Senator Markey in separate comment. “When negative health impacts from these beverages are possible, consumers need to be protected and any misleading marketing practices must be stopped.”
“Despite energy drink makers’ claims of not marketing their products to teenagers, a quick glance at social media or a drop by at a local concert shows that those claims just aren’t based in fact,” said Senator Durbin in separate comments. “The truth is that in the absence of federal regulation, energy drink companies are using effective marketing tactics to reach young people – and sadly it’s working. It is past time for this industry to heed the advice of public health experts across the country and take commonsense steps to protect young people from getting hooked on their product.”
A copy of the report “Buzz Kill: A Survey of Popular Energy Drinks Finds Majority of the Market Unwilling to Make Commitments to Protect Adolescents” can be found HERE.
Copies of the individual responses from the companies can be found HERE.
The Senators recommend several steps that energy drink manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)should take to improve transparency and representation of this class of products, as well as ensure that children and teens are adequately protected from deceptive advertising practices.
· To protect all youth, all energy drink manufacturers should cease marketing of energy drink products to children and teens under the age of 18 and sales of these products in K-12 school settings.
· The FDA should develop and release suggestions for daily caffeine consumption limits for children and adolescents.
· The FDA should immediately develop and release guidance to industry on the voluntary reporting of adverse events associated with energy drinks and all energy drink companies should commit to providing this information to the FDA.
· The FDA should define what constitutes an energy drink, a sports drink, or other “functional” beverages.
· To reduce misuse, all energy drink manufacturers should cease marketing caffeinated energy drinks as intended to be consumed for hydration or rehydration following rigorous physical activity.
· Federal agencies should look to include restrictions in school-based programs for the sales of energy drinks.
Letters were sent to Arizona Beverages, Coca-Cola Company, Celsius, Inc., Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, Living Essentials, Monster Energy Company, PepsiCo, Red Bull North America, Inc, Rockstar, Inc, SK Energy/PureGrowth, Target Corporation, and XYIENCE.
Last year, Senators Durbin, Blumenthal and Markey released a report that shows inconsistencies in the labeling and classification of energy drinks, extensive marketing to adolescents and young adults through social media and events, and high caffeine levels that exceed the level considered safe in soda by the FDA. The report was compiled using responses from fourteen energy drink companies.