Sugary Sodas Falter, Now Caffeine & Sodium Rule

spike.jpgWelcome to the kids’ beverage blitz…swapping one health vice for another.

Two new industry reports today show soda’s rate of decline has tripled since last year. BUT (there’s always a “but”) the marketing machine has replaced the churn with energy jolts of caffeine, sports drinks of sodium and sugar, and ready-to-drink (RTD) teas and coffees.

“Who wants to be seen with a ‘cola’ when Frappuccino is available. And Fruit 20. And Snapple Green Tea with EGCG. And Red Bull. And…whaddya call that stuff nobody used to drink when it was free? Oh, yeah…Water,” quipped Ad Age columnist Bob Garfield.

As fickle folks flock to the next big ‘thang’ Shaping Youth is working hard to ‘idiot proof’ the media messages so parents and kids can discern the caffeine con from the get go, especially with all the unregulated ‘dietary supplements’ and wacky health claims coming onto the scene.

Shaping Youth anticipated kids being blitzed with ‘functional food’ claims of ‘healthier junk’ early on which is why we started counter-marketing sports drinks in 2005, energy drinks in 2006, and ALL ‘performance’ enhanced beverages in 2007 to open kids’ eyes to how industry changes the lens of the scope, while keeping kids in the crosshairs of their target marketing.

Functional claims and dietary supplements are ‘fuzzy’ at best. Products using words like “science blended” and “herbally enhanced” are not remotely regulated by the FDA. One MD has a concise overview called Quack Watch which pops the top on supplements. And CSPI’s “Functional foods: Public health boon or 21st century quackery?” goes deeper into the background.

I double-dog-dare you to TRY to sort out the acronym-laden governmental guidelines of the NLEA, DSHEA, FDA, to see if they’re GRAS or not. (GRAS=”generally recognized as safe”–you get my drift)

This is why I find functional claims to be even more damaging than blatantly bogus ones.

It’s much easier for me to “red flag” key watch words to kids than to deconstruct the elaborate ‘greenwashing,’ nutritional benefits, new age cure-alls and health claims being paraded out in these ‘better for you’ energy concoctions.

Sports and energy drinks are often pumped up as ‘healthier hydration.’ (yet some have the opposite effect since they’re chock full of sodium & sugar; the higher the sugar the slower the absorption and dehydration risk)

They’re sniped with banners of “vitamins, nutrients, calcium fortification” and all kinds of exotic herbal supplements from gingko biloba and ginseng to guarana, the Brazilian, natural plant stimulant akin to caffeine.

Then they’re poured into kids with aspirational marketing using athletes, celebs, and ‘active lifestyle’ packaging.

Here’s the new C1.5 energy drink from the NBA’s Carmelo Anthony that debuted just in time for the All-Stars in Vegas a few weeks ago. Sheesh.

When you figure half the market growth is in this realm, you KNOW where the money’s gonna land as everyone and his uncle comes out with their own version. (yes, even dead rock icons)

I get hyper just hearing the descriptors of “shooters, zips, shots, fizzes, spikes and tonics” that jack up the ‘need’ and zing the newest health craze into kids’ growing, youthful bods.

Beverage Marketing Corp’s CEO confirmed, “Beverages offering functional benefits are growing two to three times faster than conventional refreshment beverages.”

For perspective, though, the big kahuna is STILL soda.

Even after sliding 1.1% it still commands almost 51% of the overall beverage market…all four of the fastest-growing segments still make up just 7.8% of total volume.

Energy drinks grew 49% (to a measly 0.8% share) followed by ready-to-drink teas, which surged 26.2% compared with 9% in 2005, sports drinks grew 11.7% and ready-to-drink coffees grew 10.4%. Interesting.

Seems to me, they’re literally slapping the word ‘energy’ on a label, tossing in a few functional claims, a wee bit of juice or some clever packaging to spike sales without venturing too far away from soda at all…

It’s now ‘healthy soda.’

Example? 7UpPlus. Is the public REALLY this naïve? Um, guess so.

Why else would the giants be rushing to bring new “vitamin-fortified soft drinks” to market, like “Diet Coke Plus” or PepsiCo’s “Tava” (due later this year) in a desperate attempt to put some fizz into flat sales of carbonated soft-drinks?!

Diet Coke Plus will contain niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium and zinc. Tava will contain vitamins B3, B6 and E, and chromium.

Geez. Grab some leafy greens and call it a day, megadoses of vitamin B are unproven and controversial.

In the monster category of ‘performance’ energy drinks with ‘ergogenic aids’, you’d fail to pass the International Olympic Committee piddle test in a red hot minute. Nevertheless, they’re big…and energy drink vending machines are next.

In 2007 alone, we’ve already seen some pretty toxic fallout of energy drinks as marketers crank out a new brand at the rate of about one a day.

Many are lured by the pitch to make a healthier choice without bothering to see ‘all energy drinks are NOT created equal, and some contain copious quantities of caffeine with adverse effects on kids health…fouling up sleep, creating anxiety, even bed wetting.

Some fall in the “hardcore” caffeine category like the new Spike Shooter targeting teens with ‘six times the kick’ in a ‘bad to the bone’ heavy metal ‘Get Spiked’ campaign that’s already hurt six high school kids making the news in Colorado.

Science Blogs breaks down the “so what” factor by explaining the 300 mg of caffeine that most likely led to the kids’ heart palpitations, nausea and shortness of breath.

Their PhD Pharmacologist also gives a heads up on the dangers of blending caffeine with sympathomimetics like ephedrine, making note of the mortality cases from weight loss supplements that led to the US ditching that drug altogether.

We’re doing a related interview with poison control on teen’s use of energy drinks and alcohol since they’re seeing surges of toxicity among the Red Bull & Vodka set.

Aside from being ‘wide awake drunks’ kids are making impaired decisions ‘feeling’ more sober than they really are and getting behind the wheel…Killer combo, literally.

As for trashing teen bodies in a different manner…

The newest double-toxic marketing whammy is last month’s “Hooters” energy libation launch, as their VP Marketing, Mike McNeil coos, “When you think of Hooters you think of high energy.”

Uh…Gee, that’s not what I think of when I think of hooters, Mikey.

We’re still doing our special feature on pink energy drinks with Packaging Girlhood, since Go Girl (which debuted on fall fashion runways) Tab Energy (‘fuel to be fabulous’) Pink, Damzl Fuel are in a market segment all their own.

We’re interested in finding an op-ed home for that one, since Red Bull has placed mini fridges in the back of taxis operated by Pink Ladies, the women-only taxi service to target their sugar free energy boost for girls’ night out.

It’s readily apparent there’s some ‘pinkwashing’ going on since breast cancer tie-ins and caffeine SHOULD be a disconnect.

Kids and caffeine is equally absurd, weird, and funky especially thinking of prepubescent bodies slamming it as joy juice at ever-younger ages.

Caffeine has been ‘age-compressed’ to be a status symbol of adulthood among the teen scene, and there’s trickle down to the schoolyard set when our K-5 crew shows hands of having swigged their share from siblings.

I see countless middle-school Monsters and Rockstars ramped up in Full Throttle with buzz juice out there, as they tote their Starbucks logos to class.

Easily a third (sometimes half or more) of each of our counter-marketing kids has chugged these drinks consistently, which pretty much mirrors the stats saying 31% of U.S. teens drink them.

Want to know how your faves compare, from sodas to Starbucks?

Here’s a solid caffeine database for liquid libations AND products of all kinds. In the “Yougaddabekiddinme” realm, 7-11 is getting in on the energy kick with a caffeinated slurpee!?

I’m not even going to get into the sodium drinks too much, other than to say business is booming and its one of our core counter-marketing focuses, since they’re landing on every end-cap display and vending machine to replace the soda situation.

Gatorade, for example, saw a 12% jump in volume, breaking the 1 billion gallon mark this past year.

Kids are slurping needless neon colors in big gulp portion distortion replacing any benefit of leaving sodas behind by swallowing the marketing machine whole.

Swap one sugary item for another. Increase sodium. Shake up the market. Pour it into kid-culture. Serve.

Yep, Shaping Youth will need to be counter-marketing with our own ‘reality shows’ for a very long time.

Stay tuned…we’re filming them now so ANYONE can run a session, anywhere, anytime, throughout the globe.

We have a lot of fun, fuel critical thinking, and leave kids…(dare I say it?) Energized.



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  2. Oh this article is brilliant! So inspiring. I laughed out loud when you suggested ‘idiot proofing the media messages’! It’s true, we really are this naive. It’s just a shame because it seems that the primary targets of these shameless marketing campaigns are the young and vulnerable teens who can’t seem to see through the hype. We need more activism like this! Keep it up!
    .-= Chloe Delano´s last blog ..Is ‘Healthy Energy Drink’ an Oxymoron? How One Company is Leading a Revolution =-.

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