I had never tasted an energy drink in my life before I was handed a sample bottle of Amp at a public gathering in San Francisco last month. Tasting a bit metallic, it was composed mainly of orange juice and caffeine, prompting my husband to ask why, if one desired the vitamins provided by juice and the energy provided by caffeine, one would imbibe them together, as the taste of both would then be inevitably compromised. Why not drink juice, he wondered, and then drink a Frappucino?
This led me to research and write an article about energy drinks, which represent a $5 billion industry. Some of these drinks contain as much caffeine, in a single can or bottle, as do two standard cups of coffee. Over 65 percent of regular energy-drink consumers are young men, which largely answers my husband's question. Energy drinks are aggressively marketed to young men using words and images that market research has proven appeal to young men. Their packaging and advertising campaigns evoke speed, violence, risky sports, sex, drugs, and death: skulls, skateboards, race cars, bikini babes, double entendres. Each has its own theme, but these drinks also contain vitamins and amino acids and the implication is that they healthily boost athletic and sexual prowess, while occasionally letting the drinker flirt with death -- in a fun way. The hundreds of drinks on the market bear unsubtle names such as these: Bawls, Blood, Ammo, B52, Enorm, Atomic Blast, Banzai, Beaver Buzz, Death Adder, Damzl Fuel, Pussy, Erektus, Sin, Greed, NeuroGasm, Adrenalyn, Xtazy, WhoopAss. One energy drink is actually called Cocaine. The name appears in powdery white on bright red and blue cans.