As sugar increasingly comes under inspection across the world, energy drinks have received harsher scrutiny due to concerns over the effects of caffeine and taurine on a younger audience. More countries are implementing a sugar tax or banning the sale of energy drinks to minors completely, but will this make a difference to the amount of the beverage consumed?

Lithuania became the first country to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors under 18 in 2014 and was followed two years later by neighbouring state Latvia in 2016. Figures showed that before the ban at least 10% of school children in Lithuania were consuming energy drinks once a week. However sales of energy drinks have steadily started to rise again with a 1% increase recorded in 2016 in Lithuania. Latvia however saw a total consumption fall of 15%; proof that communicating the harmful nature of energy drinks can work in reducing consumption.

Red Bull was also previously banned across France, Denmark and Norway, but they were forced to legalise it in 2008 under EU law, Uruguay however still prohibits the sale of the brand. It was cited by the French government that the excess caffeine in the drink was harmful to health, despite the fact that the EC’s Scientific Committee on Food and other toxicology experts deemed the levels of caffeine to be safe.

Other countries have imposed high duties instead of banning energy drinks to minors, Saudi Arabia for example are slapping a 100% duty on energy drinks in April this year, calling it an ‘excise tax on harmful substances’. The tax is also being applied to tobacco. Energy drinks also come under the sugar tax in many countries, such as the impending tax in the UK and the one currently enforced in Mexico.  This has not stemmed the amount consumed with both countries seeing a continuous rise of 3% and 21% respectively in 2016.

Natural energy drinks incorporating ingredients such as coco berry or green/tea/guarana blends are starting to emerge, as producers look at ways of circumventing the backlash against ‘regular’ energy drinks, and tap into the consumer demand for ‘natural’ beverages. This will aid the continued consumption of energy drinks as health-conscious consumers look for a natural energy hit.

All things considered consumption of energy drinks is unlikely to be hindered as consumers favour the desired energy boost needed to get through the day. The negative media coverage may have some influence over purchases, but many young people will continue to drink energy drinks as a status symbol.