safefood report into Energy Drinks released

  • Massive increase in number of products now on sale
  • Some brands contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar

Monday 14 March, 2016. A new report by safefood into Energy Drinks in Ireland has found a massive increase in the number of products on sale¹ compared with 2002 and some brands containing up to 16 teaspoons of sugar. The report also found that some brands cost less than €0.50 cent a can. Males aged 15-24 were the highest consumers² of energy drinks (64%) and over half of those who consumed energy drinks (54%) consumed them at least once a week or more frequently.

Introducing the research, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition,safefood commented:

It’s really remarkable that these products are so prevalent and together, energy drinks and sports drinks now comprise more than 20% of the soft drinks market³ in Ireland. Consumption can have health consequences because of their sugar and caffeine content. A typical small 250ml can has sugar levels of 6 teaspoons per can which is equivalent to a full chocolate bar. The caffeine content is high and drinking two small cans and one small espresso of coffee drives an adult’s daily caffeine intake above recommended levels."

"In addition, the use of energy drinks as a mixer with alcohol among young adults also has consequences in the context of Ireland’s current binge–drinking culture. safefood’s position continues to be that these drinks are not recommended as a mixer for alcoholic beverages but this is now common and part of the binge drinking culture prevalent particularly amongst our 15-24 year olds.”

Operation Transformation’s GP Dr Ciara Kelly continued “Mixing an energy drink which is a stimulant, with alcohol which is a depressant, is like driving a car with your feet on the accelerator and brake pedals at the same time; it stimulates a person so they actually end up drinking for longer as they may not be aware how drunk they really are. GP surgeries and our A&E Departments have to deal with the effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The cheap price, easy availability, aggressive marketing and consumption of these products bluntly show how far from responsible the industry truly is and why we need to ask ourselves some hard questions when it comes to their use.“

While the majority of energy drink brands surveyed in the report comply with current labelling legislation, specific health claims are still made such as “contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue”. Brands also make references to their appeal among “top athletes, students” and “in highly demanding professions”

The safefood report found that the average price of an energy drink in Ireland was €1.09 however this cost ranged as low as €0.49 cent with supermarket own-brands being cheaper than branded products. The leading brands are also supported by extensive promotional campaigns particularly on digital and social media, with many brands hosting dozens of dedicated Twitter and Facebook accounts and marketing campaigns aimed specifically at active young people with a focus on high adrenalin activities and music.

Media commentator and author Sheena Horgan continued “The increase in the number of energy and sports drink now available shows a marked trend in this category that accounted for almost €2 million in advertising spend last year - encompassing live events, sponsorships, promotion and digital and social activity. My concern with such growth is twofold: firstly, regarding the implicit claims of some of the brands’ marketing around health and/or performance, either through words or image associations; and secondly, regarding the depth of the marketing carried out by some energy drink brands, which targets a young, and therefore impressionable audience. In reality, in such a consumerist society as ours curtailing exposure to marketing is virtually impossible, however equipping young consumers with media literacy skills will empower them to balance their judgement against the ubiquity of marketing, and help them make informed and positive consumption decisions.”

Dr Foley-Nolan continued “safefood reiterate that energy drinks are also not suitable for children under 16 or for re-hydration purposes following sport. Furthermore, the marketing of these products should be undertaken without any ambiguity or association with sport or alcohol. An awareness campaign of the potential health issues, targeted specifically at young people, is something that needs to happen.”

- Ends -


¹ In February, 2015. 17 brands and 39 separate energy drink products were identified in a safefood survey of six major retail supermarket chains. This compares with 10 energy drink products found in a 2002 survey by safefood. This represents a 290% increase in the number of products available at the time of the survey

² Safetrak survey of 800 adults on the island of Ireland. Millward Brown/safefood November 2014

³ Mintel “Innovations in Soft Drinks in Ireland” (November 2015).

The estimated value of the energy and sports drink market for the island of Ireland (IoI) stood at €189.5 million in 2015. This was split as follows:

ROI – 130.4m (9% share of soft drinks market)

NI – 59.1m (14% share of soft drinks market)

Editor’s notes

  • 42.6% of students (n=2500) reported using energy drinks as a mixer with alcohol (Davoren M. Alcohol related harm among third level students in Ireland 2015 UCC)
  • On the island of Ireland, the total soft drinks market is valued at €1,816.2 million with ROI accounting for 76% of total soft drink sales (€1,3787.7 million) and NI accounting for 24% of total sales (€428.4 million) (source: Mintel “Innovations in Soft Drinks in Ireland” – November 2015.
  • On the island of Ireland, 21% of the advertising spend in the soft drinks market last year was by energy and sports drinks and amounted to €1.872 million. The total advertising spend in the soft drinks market in Ireland was €7.1 million (source: Nielsen - March 2016)
  • Total number of Global social media accounts for energy drinks (source:





Red Bull




Monster Energy




Relentless Energy








Mountain Dew




Kx Energy
















Lucozade Energy




  •  Top 5 Energy drink brands worldwide sales (source Euromonitor International 2013)


2013 Sales  in billions of dollars

1. Red Bull


2. Monster


3. Rockstar


4. Lucozade


5. Burn