While traditional energy drinks like Monster and Rockstar grow larger and larger in size, skyrocketing from 8 to 24 oz., a different trend has solidified in the energy drink market. 5-hour Energy is an “energy shot” manufactured by Living Essentials LLC since 2003.
Choosing not to compete with the full-size cans of energy drinks, founder Manoj Bhargava took a different approach and went micro. Weighing in at a just under 2 oz., 5-hour Energy packs the kick of its larger counterparts into a tiny bottle. When it launched, 5-hour Energy tapped a different corner of the market, and sales were estimated at $1 billion for 2012. 5-hour Energy now dominates the energy shot niche, controlling 90% of the market.
Small Bottle, Big Punch
5–Hour Energy doesn’t look like its mega-sized counterparts, and it doesn’t fall into the same classification as many of these traditional energy drinks either. Unlike Red Bull and other full-size energy drinks, 5-hour Energy is officially considered a dietary supplement, rather than a traditional beverage. That means it does not require FDA approval, and is subject to different rules and requirements regarding ingredients and reporting procedures.
The specifics of the energy shot’s ingredients remain hazy. 5-hour Energy claims that Regular Strength 5-hour Energy contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as a cup of the “leading premium coffee,” while the Extra Strength 5-hour Energy shot is comparable to a 12 oz. serving of the same coffee. A 12 oz. serving of Starbucks coffee contains 260 mg of caffeine. While 5-hour Energy does not disclose exact caffeine levels, a 2012 investigation by Consumer Reports found that the Regular Strength energy shot contains about 215 mg, while the Extra Strength version packs about 242 mg. Consumers can easily down these deceptively potent blends in a matter of seconds.
In addition to unspecified caffeine levels and other ingredients, 5-hour Energy also contains high levels of a variety of B vitamins, phenylalanine, and taurine.
What are the Risks?
A 2012 study published by the medical journal Pediatrics linked energy drinks to a common set of side effects including temporary increase in blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and dehydration. In addition, the study cited nervousness, irritability, anxiety, and insomnia as possible effects of excessive consumption of caffeine. These adverse effects can be even more pronounced in younger people. According to the study, self-report surveys indicate that 30-50 percent of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks.
What are the Consequences?
5-hour Energy has recently taken fire from various parties. The New York Times reports that Living Essentials LLC filed 13 reports of death in a four-year period of time, citing a possible link to 5-hour Energy. Upon review of F.D.A. records, The Times reports that, since 2009, at least 90 filings of adverse events mentioned 5-hour Energy. More than 30 of those filings involved “serious or life-threatening injuries,” including heart attacks and a spontaneous abortion. In addition, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont filed suits last year against the maker of 5-hour Energy for misleading marketing.