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Energy Drinks

May 9, 2021 | Trends

In 1982, Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian who frequently traveled to Thailand, relied on a local beverage called Krating Daeng to help tackle his jet lag. After a long flight from Europe to Bangkok, Mateschitz would down the tonic over ice, which helped his fatigue all but disappear. Krating Daeng consisted of water, cane sugar, caffeine, taurine, vitamin B, plus inositol — a carbocyclic sugar abundant in the brain.

As luck would have it, a company client, Chaleo Yoovidhya, also owned a tonic drink company. Mateschitz proposed introducing Krating Daeng to the west, and Yoovidhya and Mateschitz each invested $500,000 in the startup. In Austria, Mateschitz recruited TCBG Pharmaceutical to adapt the drink to the European market. Together, they developed a carbonated beverage called Red Bull. Formally launched in 1987 and introduced in the U.S. in 1997, Red Bull established a major new category, energy drinks. By 2005, the U.S. energy drink market reached $3.3 billion, making it the fastest-growing portion of the non-alcoholic beverage market, according to Beverage Digest.

Getting a quick buzz is central to the marketing of Four Loko, a 23.5-ounce (695 ml) drink combining 12% alcohol by volume with 156 mg of caffeine, plus such energy-boosting amino acids as Taurine. Four Loko is marketed by Chicago-based Phusion Projects and is popularly known as “blackout in a can.”

Four Loko extends a principle introduced by Red Bull. Vodka and Red Bull quickly became a bar and nightclub staple. Sometimes called a “speedball,” the combination offers a depressant, vodka, to bring you down and a stimulant, Red Bull, to take you back up, much like its drug namesake, which combines heroin and cocaine.

The energy drink market could indeed be a speedball, because it’s ruled by the Time Compression Ubertrend — the acceleration of life.

Michael Tchong’s Ubertrends book
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