Energy drinks are relatively new and a niche beverage category.
Originally popular in Asia, energy drinks have been marketed in Thailand since the 1970s. Energy drinks were introduced on the European market in the late 1980s from where they started their success story all around the world. Despite their recent category growth, Energy drinks are still a niche category of beverages, representing only 1 % of the total non-alcoholic beverages market.
Most caffeine intake comes from beverages other than energy drinks.
In their 2015 scientific opinion on the safety of caffeine, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that the contribution to total caffeine intake from energy drinks is negligible in children and low in adolescents. By far the most caffeine consumption – for people of all ages – comes from other sources, namely coffee, tea, chocolate and cola beverages. This clearly shows that other popular products, which are consumed more regularly, such as coffee, tea, chocolate and cola beverages, are the key contributors to daily caffeine intake in Europe.
Energy drinks, their ingredients and their labelling are regulated within the European Union. For example, at EU level, the EU Labelling Directive 2000/13/EC and since 13 December 2014 the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 regulate the labelling of caffeine containing beverages. These provisions provide for advisory warnings and information across the EU, based on caffeine content, which enables consumers to make informed choices.
Many of the ingredients commonly used in energy drinks can be found naturally in other foodstuffs. For example, taurine occurs naturally in seafood or poultry, while caffeine is a natural constituent of coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts, guarana and yerba mate.
Taurine is not a stimulant, but it plays an important role in several physiological functions.
Taurine does not have any stimulating effect. It is a sulphur-containing amino acid, which is not incorporated into proteins but does play a role in many important physiological functions, including retinal and neurological development, osmoregulation, modulation of cellular calcium levels and immune function. It is one of the main ingredients in energy drinks. Taurine is an amino acid which is widely found in animal tissues and also present in the daily diet and in most infant formulae. It is also a natural constituent of the human body. Approximately 0.1% of the total human body weight come from taurine. Taurine in energy drinks is synthetically produced and safe for consumption.
In 2009, in line with numerous health authorities across the world, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is the risk assessment body for food safety in the European Union, concluded that the exposure of taurine at levels presently used in energy drinks is not of a safety concern. This was confirmed by the EFSA in its scientific opinion on the safety of caffeine (2015).
Habitual use of caffeine does not lead to “addiction”.
There is consensus that caffeine, which is also a natural ingredient in foodstuffs such as coffee, tea or chocolate, is not addictive. Energy drinks contain about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.
EDE member companies have developed a “Code of Practice for the Marketing and Labelling of Energy Drinks” containing several voluntary commitments which goes above and beyond the current legal requirements for energy drinks. In essence, EDE members are committed to responsible marketing of their products and their appropriate consumption.
Labels of energy drinks are at the forefront of caffeine related information.
Like no other caffeine containing beverage, energy drinks inform consumers on their labels about three important aspects:
1. the fact that the beverage actually contains caffeine,
2. the total amount of caffeine which is present in the product and
3. they display an advisory statement that the product should be consumed in moderation (like any other food and beverage) and that they are not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women.