High-caffeine Cocaine ok for Euro drinkers

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Caffeine content Energy drinks Caffeine

The controversial energy drink called Cocaine, which while drug-free, contains 350 per cent more caffeine than rival brand Red Bull, this week hit UK shelves amidst criticism from politicians over the launch.

As the namesake of an illegal drug, the product has generated no end of headlines over its branding, but the attacks also reflect wider potential health concerns over the consumption of high-caffeine, so-called ‘energy drink’ products.

However, while prominent British politicians have slammed Cocaine's Los Vegas manufacturer Redux Beverages, the product’s formulation remains perfectly in line with EU guidelines for high-caffeine beverages, according to European health experts.

Formulation concerns

The issue of energy drinks continues to divide opinion in Europe, where concerns over the content of substances like caffeine and amino acids such as Taurine have forced a number of energy drink makers to consider reformulating their drinks to avoid bans on their products.

A spokesperson for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) told BeverageDaily.com that the risk assessor was looking to evaluate the safety of a number of commonly used energy drink compounds later this year, but caffeine was not one of them.

“Apart from taurine, EFSA will also be evaluating glucuronolactone as constituents of ‘energy drinks’, possibly by the end of 2008,”​ the spokesperson said.

Caffeine guidelines

Under current European Commission regulations, the former Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), ruled back in 1999 that with the exception of pregnant women and children, caffeine consumption in ‘energy drinks’ when replacing other forms of the stimulant was not a ‘cause for concern’.

The commission still calls for clear labelling on any beverages containing more than 150mg/l of caffeine to state that there is ‘high caffeine content’ in the product. The EC said that the labelling was not required for beverages based on tea or coffee extracts that clearly note either beverage on its packaging.

Coffee comparison

Despite the higher caffeine content, some reports suggest that energy drinks do not directly lead to increased caffeine consumption.

A comparative investigation into the caffeine content of energy drinks last year revealed that per volume, the beverages contain similar amounts of the stimulant to that found in coffee, but tend to be consumed in larger quantities.

The findings are published in September's issue of Consumer Reports, published by the non-profit group Consumers Union.

The organisation tested 12 carbonated energy drinks - nine regular and three low-calorie - for caffeine content and taste. Caffeine levels were found to range from 50 mg to 145 mg per 8 oz serving, as compared with the roughly 80mg found in a cup of coffee.

Not everyone in the bloc has welcomed the emergence of the energy drink though.

Red Bull, one of the world’s most popular energy drink brands, was banned in France until 1 April this year due to concerns in the country its high caffeine content, with particular concern over the level of research available on the use of taurine as an ingredient

Some French authorities have pledged to continue fighting against the products availability in the country over their claims that research is insufficient to prove the safety of similar products.

Growth potential

While the issue rages on, the market for sports and energy drinks continues to grow strongly.

The segment is expected to reach $39.2bn in value by 2010, currently led by the US where sales are expected to reach $17bn this year alone, according to the findings by Global Industry Analysts.

The remainder of global demand is made up by Western European markets and Japan, which along with the US account for 88 per cent of total global consumption.

Sales of energy drinks alone are expected to grow in the US by 33.7 per cent over a three-year period, according to the report.

In Europe, the UK and Germany are the largest markets with combined sales of $4.6 billion. France is the region's fastest growing market with 18 per cent CAGR.

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