Energy drinks arrived in Australia in the late ’90s. ‘V’ was first launched in New Zealand in 1997 and hit the market in Australia in 1999. Red Bull was invented in Austria and first marketed there in 1987. It was also launched in Australia in 1999. By 2014 Red Bull claimed annual sales of around 4 billion cans in more than 160 countries. High in caffeine, taurine and sugars, these drinks claim to improve performance, vigilance, reaction speed and concentration.
Energy drinks can contain a range of ingredients including ginseng, ginkgo, milk thistle extract, guarana seed, added vitamins and green tea. The first to launch in Australia, V, made much of guarana, the berries of an Amazonian plant that are high in caffeine. Red Bull, launched the same year, draws its name from one of its ingredients, taurine. Taurine is an organic molecule that may aid athletic performance and endurance and was once extracted from bull semen.
This has led to an urban myth that Red Bull contains bull semen. It’s not true. These days taurine is synthesised in the laboratory.
Since 1999, many energy drinks have come and gone in the Australian market, but the category has shown strong growth. According the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), sales in Australia and New Zealand increased from 34.5 million litres in 2001 to 155.6 million litres in 2010. Coca Cola entered the field with Mother in 2006. This was followed by Rockstar, introduced in Las Vegas USA in 2001 and launched in Australia in 2008, and by Monster, launched in 2010.
Health authorities have raised concerns about the amount of caffeine and sugar in energy drinks. Manufacturers have generally agreed not to sample them or market them to anyone under 18, although this does not prevent their sale to children. However, the ABS figures in 2010 showed that these drinks made up less that 0.4 per cent of total intake of non-alcoholic, non-dairy beverages among 14 to 18 year-olds and only 1.7 per cent of this age group consumed them.