Money & Business

Why Energy Drink Companies Got Into the Lobbying Game

By Ernie Smith / Feb 1, 2013 (sacco1989/Thinkstock)

Facing significant public and legislative pressure over product safety, two major energy drink companies have hired lobbying firms and are gearing up for a fight in Congress.

When your industry feels the heat of bad press and legislative pressure, how do you fight back against possible regulatory measures?

If you’re an energy drink producer, you get in the lobbying game. Here’s what led two brand-name companies to focus their message on Congress:

The products: In recent years, a number of energy drinks, including 5-Hour Energy, Monster Energy, and Red Bull, have become popular with consumers in part because of their stimulant effect — caused in part by high levels of caffeine and similar substances. In the case of a Monster Energy drink, for example, a single 16-oz. can includes 160 milligrams of caffeine, about five times the amount you’d find in a can of Coke, though less than half of you would find in a similarly sized cup of coffee from Starbucks.

The controversy: Last year, the press reported on deaths and health issues that people who had taken the caffeinated beverages suffered, and the drink makers came under scrutiny. (In one case, the parents of a 14-year-old girl sued Monster Energy after she died from drinking two of the beverages in a 24-hour period.) The scrutiny led two Democratic senators, Illinois’ Dick Durbin and Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, to call for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to step up regulatory efforts of the drinks.

What’s happening now: With Senate pressure on their marketing practices continuing, the makers of these drinks have started beefing up their lobbying presence, with both Monster Energy and Red Bull America hiring separate lobbying firms to fight for their businesses’ interests. For both companies, it’s the first time they’ve had to do so. And they could be in for a fight: Blumenthal and Durbin have continued pushing the FDA for regulatory changes. “The energy drink makers are mistaken if they believe they have escaped regulatory oversight to safeguard consumer health,” the duo wrote in a letter regarding the drinks. And recently the senators were joined by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) in requesting information on the companies’ marketing records.

When the going gets tough, how would your association handle such a situation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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