The headline of my column this month is inspired by a line from the movie “Jurassic Park.” As the main characters are standing in the dinosaur lab, Jeff Goldblum’s scientist argues that “life finds a way.” They may try to control which dinosaurs they bring back to life, but some things have a life of their own. And, as anyone who’s watched the movie knows, these characters will eventually run into a teensy weensy bit of trouble as a result.
Anyway, what does “Jurassic Park” have to do with the beverage business? Replace the word “life” in the quote with any successful beverage category under attack today and there you have the theme of this month’s column.
That line from the movie—which I guess is always sloshing around in the back of my mind along with dozens of other memorable movie quotes—popped to the forefront of my cerebrum the other day as I was thinking about the different forces aligning against beverages. There’s the government, with its attempts to limit sizes of some drinks or impose taxes on them or ban them altogether. And then there are the consumers themselves, who have turned to the courts. One of the most well known cases of this is the lawsuit against Monster energy drink by the family of a young woman who died after allegedly drinking the product. The lawsuit alleges Monster’s formulation was somehow to blame for the young woman’s death.
The “Jurassic Park” quote came to mind when I noticed that despite all of the recent negative publicity about energy drinks, despite all of the controversy, the category is finding a way. Much of the ingenuity and creativity that originally made the category the enormous success that it is today, is now being poured into the emerging category of more natural and/or organic energy drinks. These are drinks touting New Agey—and presumably healthful—ingredients like guarana, yerba mate, açai, green tea, and the like.
Let’s face it, energy drinks are here to stay. The category has been racking up billions of dollars. Consumers just love it. Apparently there was this gap in the market when it came to what consumers needed. They wanted something beyond just coffee to give them a boost of energy and enhanced focus throughout the day and the energy drink category emerged to fill that need. And as of late, the category has either been evolving into, or splitting into, something different.
Time will tell if we end up with a standalone “natural” energy drink category existing side-by-side with the mainstream energy drink brands, or if all the controversy and negative publicity somehow forces the top energy drinks to reformulate in a new direction.
Either way, you can bet that the energy drink business will find a way.