Caffeine Reaches New Levels in Energy Drinks

One energy drink may have as much caffeine as six sodas.

June 12, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—According to Circana, the market for energy drinks has surged from $12 billion to $19 billion in the United States over the past five years, The New York Times reports. Highlighting the growth was Pepsi’s acquisition of an 8.5% stake in Celsius last year for $550 million. Health-conscious customers are drawn to no-sugar, low-calorie versions that also include electrolytes.

As the market grows, the amount of caffeine in some beverages grows, too. Red Bull, which hit the market 25 years ago, contains 114 milligrams of caffeine in a 12-ounce can. Prime Energy has 200 milligrams per 12 ounces. Bang Energy Drink has 300 milligrams in a 16-ounce can. For comparison, an eight-ounce cup of coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Some schools in Britain and Australia have banned energy drinks, but in the United States, although federal regulation bars schools from selling or providing the drinks to elementary and middle school kids, many schools don’t restrict students from bringing the drinks to school with them.

There have been attempts to regulate energy drinks as well as limit the amount of caffeine inside of them. Legislators in several states have considered banning the sale of energy drinks to minors, but the industry has been able to fight against such legislation, arguing that young people can get caffeine from many other sources, such as coffee. A 16-ounce Cinnamon Caramel Cream Nitro Cold Brew from Starbucks contains 265 milligrams of caffeine, for example.

About a decade ago, the Times notes, the energy drink industry voluntarily adopted a set of principles, including “labeling the amount of caffeine in products and noting on packaging that the beverages were not recommended for children. The industry also agreed not to sell or market its products in schools.”

Read “Beverage Boosters” from the August 2022 issue of NACS Magazine for an overview of the energy and sports drink markets.