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Energy Drinks: What are the differences?

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

Energy drinks are everywhere. They’re in the aisles of your local shop, waking you up before your 9am lecture, helping you get the most out of your workout, keeping your eyes open for an all nighter revision session- even helping you keep up with your friends in the club! Although energy drinks often receive bad press in the media, they’re one of the fastest growing sectors of the beverage industry- and it’s not hard to see why… Energy drinks are marketed to wake you up and improve your concentration; a quick pick-me-up that tastes great and works for any occasion.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen a huge demand for more variety within energy drinks; the term itself is quite broad and it’s best to differentiate the different types of energy drinks available on the market. The market has shifted to create more complex energy drinks, with specific functionality; studying, working, online gaming, festivals, or just general physical activity? There’s a drink for that.

We’ve seen the classic caffeinated energy drinks, providing an instant energy boost and enhancing physical performance. We also want to look at plant based functional energy drinks, for more health conscious consumers, and the more recent rise of nootropic energy drinks- designed to sharpen focus and improve cognitive performance.


Traditional energy drinks

Let’s start off by going back in time, travelling back to 1904… The very first energy drinks began as an offshoot of the typical soft drinks industry; Coca-Cola and Pepsi were actually originally marketed as “energy boosting” drinks! Travelling forward in time now, to the 1980’s, when the market for traditional caffeinated energy drinks really got going. Now, to modern day, when these drinks have only grown in popularity- and it’s rare that you’ll enter a store without seeing one.

If we say Red Bull or Monster, those names are sure to ring a bell, right? These kinds of energy drinks usually contain sugars, caffeine, and some contain an amino acid taurine, with a huge focus on giving you that instant energy boost. We know that caffeine increases awareness, enhances physical performance, and stimulates brain function; when these sugars break down and travel through the bloodstream they give that instant rush (or energy).

Over time, we’ve seen health kicks popping up more and more, with consumers looking for healthier alternatives. The biggest solution to this was sugar free options; most energy drinks began offering an alternative sugar free version, swapping sugar for various sweeteners. As a part of these health kicks, there have been movements to reduce the taurine content in these drinks; in some cases it can be extremely high.

Sure, a drink with a high caffeine content and (often) high sugar content can be a great way to get instant energy; however, once the caffeine wears off, you can be prepared for a big crash. We don’t need to list off the negative effects of sugar, it’s been burned into our brains from dentists, parents, teachers, almost from everyone! This is a big reason why we’ve seen a rise in natural functional energy drinks, using healthier ingredients with a design to provide functional benefits that last all day long.


Natural energy drinks