Senators fight energy drink brands on marketing to kids

In an effort to reduce the amount of caffeine-saturated beverages consumed by children, senators and the American Medical Association are trying to stop energy-drink brands from marketing to kids and teens.

In an effort to reduce the amount of caffeine-saturated beverages consumed by children, senators and the American Medical Association are trying to stop energy-drink brands from marketing to kids and teens.

At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last week, experts said one in three children in the US regularly consumes energy drinks, and in the first six months of 2013, more than 700 kids visited emergency rooms due to health-related issues from them.

Lawmakers at the hearing said the brands have targeted adolescents with their marketing efforts, including Facebook posts, more than their core audience of 18- to 35-year-olds.

The senators' suggestions included shutting down the brands' social media sites, adding more extensive warning labels on packaging, and altering marketing language. The latter would stop the encouragement of rapid energy-drink consumption or implying that the drinks improve athletic performance.

Executives from Rockstar, Red Bull, and Monster Energy attended the hearing.

All three brands denied marketing to children and positioned their products as safe.

Monster Beverage CEO Rodney Sacks stated that the company is, and always has been, focused on ensuring that its ingredients are safe.

Amy Taylor, VP of marketing for North America at Red Bull, said her company sells products in 165 countries, noting they've passed health regulations around the world. She added that 93% of caffeine consumption by children under 18-years-old comes from beverages other than energy drinks.

Despite their arguments, the energy-drink industry may have a tough time fighting lawmakers on the issue, especially with the war on sugary drinks also taking place.

When soft-drink and beverage companies faced increasing pressure to lower or eliminate sugar in their products, the American Beverage Association launched an initiative called Calories Count and added the nutritional information of sodas to vending machines.

Energy-drink companies may have to go a similar route, enforcing stricter guidelines on social media and putting more informative warnings on bottles. The brands need to realize that lawmakers don't want children drinking these beverages, regardless of whether or not research says they are safe, so they should adhere to some rules while promoting their products to adults.  

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