Cocaine drink could further confuse energy drinks market

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Energy drink Nutrition Coca-cola

Move over caffeine. A new breed of energy drinks are referencing
illegal drugs in their marketing - but without actually containing
them - in a bid to capture the lucrative, party-going youth market.

This week a new beverage called Cocaine has come to market in Australia and has - unsurprisingly - created quite a stir in the consumer press. US maker Redux Beverages claims that it creates a five-hour buzz with no 'crash' thanks to a combination of dextrose, a cocktail of vitamins, amino acids and caffeine.

Ethics of naming a consumer product after an illegal substance aside, such products could contribute to confusion in the energy drinks market, where the lines are already blurred between products aimed at serious sportspeople and those that are laden with sugar and other additives that are nonetheless, in some people's eyes, daubed with the same 'healthy' brush.

According to Leatherhead International, drinks account for the lion's share of the US$19.37bn global performance food and beverage industry. And in the marketing of drinks there has been a steady shift towards the mainstream.

Although soft drinks - dominated by the US and Japan - still lead in volume terms, in value they are coming under increasing pressure from energy drinks, especially with the introduction of successful drinks like Powerade and Gatorade from major players Coca-Cola and PepsiCo respectively.

The primary market of Cocaine is party-going young adults, giving them a legal alternative to drugs. The drink's website, while stating that it does not "technically advocate the mixing of Cocaine with alcohol", gives a number of ideas for mixed drinks.

Like many drinks in the category, Cocaine takes Red Bull (dubbed 'The Bull') as a benchmark for buzz - the leader in its category, but not generally regarded as a healthy product.

But the Cocaine website also explains in detail the effects and benefits of the constituent vitamins - C, B6, B12, inositol, and the amino acid taurine - which could give the impression that the drink can contribute to a nutritious diet.

This is not the first example of drugs being used as marketing leverage for drinks.

A drink containing hemp blossom syrup called C-ice developed by Austrian company Thurella is now available in 25 countries including the UK. Although the packaging contains the words 'sweet cannabis tea', it contains no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical responsible for the psychotropic effects of marijuana.

Harinder Kohli, commercial director of C-Ice in the UK, told that the syrup is a natural immune enhancer and contains protein, omega oils, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals - in addition to the antioxidant properties of the black tea.

When it comes to accepting hemp as a healthy ingredient, however, Kohli said: "There are going to be a certain amount of psychological hurdles to get over, but we're not saying 'drink this and get stoned', but 'learn with us and be enlightened'."

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