Energy Drinks


Ethical shopping guide to Energy Drinks, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical shopping guide to Energy Drinks, from Ethical Consumer


This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.


We look at the ethics of the Energy Drink sector 


The report includes:

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 11 brands of energy drinks
  • Best Buy recommendations for carbonated drinks
  • Caffeine in energy drinks
  • Spotlight on Gusto organic

 

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Last updated: December 2017 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Energy Drinks

 


While the volume of soft drinks consumed each year is in decline, energy drinks continue to show a 19% growth since 2012 to 669 million litres in 2017.[1]

We did not rank sports drink brands within this report as they are generally caffeine free and very specific in their function. Sports drinks are often bought by health conscious consumers as opposed to individuals needing an energy boost. However, the distinction between the two is becoming increasingly blurred.

 

Image: Energy drinks

 

We have separate guides to soft drinks (including carbonated drinks, juice drinks, flavoured waters and squashes) and a separate cola-flavoured guide because they have a whole market of their own, accounting for 59% of fizzy drinks consumed in 2016. 

 

 


 

 

Caffeine in Energy Drinks

 

A 250 ml can of Red Bull contains about the same amount as a cup of coffee or two colas. (A cola actually contains less than a cup of tea.)

Consumed in moderation it is fine, but in excess it can cause insomnia, nervousness, headaches, and heart palpitations. Caffeine can also be addictive. While some feel the effects more than others, children are particularly sensitive. Any drink in the UK with more than 15 g per 100 ml must be labelled as ‘high caffeine content’.

One warning-area is energy drinks mixed with alcohol. The combination can create a sense of ‘wide-awake drunkenness’, leading people to underestimate how drunk they are, and increasing the chance of falls, fights and accidents.

If you want that caffeine shot without the add-on issues around soft drinks, cold coffee could be an option. Otherwise James White advertises its Zingers as “a delicious caffeine-free alternative to an espresso to wake you up”. All the brands in our energy drinks table contain caffeine.

 


 

 

Sugar Content

 

The health issues associated with sugar and high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks are well known: tooth cavities, weight gain and associated type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The 2018 sugar tax is expected to have a negative effect on both value and volume sales, although the overall market is forecast to have returned to growth by 2021.[1]

We compared the sugar content in best buy and recommended products, alongside their bestselling, sugar containing counterparts. 

 

Key

  • The colour code is by tax bracket.
  • The red drinks contain over 8g of sugar per 100ml, and will be taxed at a rate of 24p / litre.
  • The amber drinks contain 5-8g of sugar per 100ml, and will be taxed at a rate of 18p / litre.
  • Those in green contain under 5g and therefore won’t be taxed

 

Table: Energy drink 


Read about the sugar tax and and lobbying against sugar controls in our guide to Soft Drinks.  

 

 


Plastic Packaging

 

12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans each year, killing millions of marine animals. We recommend glass bottles over plastic, and Gusto is the only brand that only uses glass bottles.

The comparison between glass bottles and aluminium is a much more of an even match. Aluminium is lighter than glass and therefore will have lower greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. However, only 45% of aluminium cans are recycled in the UK, compared to 68% of glass bottles. Schekter's only uses aluminium cans. 

We cover more about the issue of plastic in our guide to bottled water. 

 
 
 

 

Company profile

 

Gusto Organic Ltd.’s products come top of our table for both colas and energy drinks. The Naturally Slim Cola is the company’s only product that did not gain a positive Product Sustainability mark for organic certification.

The company explained that the drink “uses organic stevia to sweeten which is permitted everywhere in the world in organic beverages except the EU”. Its Real Cola is also certified Fairtrade, and received an extra mark for this.

 

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References

1. Mintel Report, Sports and Energy Drinks, August 2017

 

 


 

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