Mon, 21 Jul 2003

Keeping up your stamina with energy drinks

Sudibyo M. Wiradji, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular. Various brands of energy drinks can now be found in supermarkets and even on the street, in stalls or kiosks.

Despite the specific function of energy drinks -- they are not just a liquid refreshment such as water or tea -- the market for the relatively new beverage has grown rapidly in Indonesia.

Consumption of energy drinks was initially confined to drivers of public transportation, working at night and desperate to stay alert. Now, the product's diversity and popularity means that athletes and sports enthusiasts, students, professionals and those with a passion for outdoor adventure are buying the liquid to give them stamina.

Often with a high caloric value and vitamin enriched, consumers can quickly regain energy lost due to over exertion. They may also use the drinks to prepare for high intensity activity.

Executives of energy drinks companies ensure that the drinks are safe for consumption and have no side effects, provided that no more than the recommended three bottles or three sachets per day is consumed.

However, children, pregnant women and those with serious heart problems are not recommended to use energy drinks because the products may speed up the heart rate.

Energy drinks sometimes claim to increase libido but one energy drink producer said actually that wasn't substantiated (but), "when you have consumed an energy drink you might feel like you are in top condition and that might increase your sex drive," he said.

Kratingdaeng, Lipovitan, M-150, Fit Up, Extra Joss and Hemaviton are among the brands on the market. They pack the shelves of shops, available by the bottle or in a soluble sachet or tablet.

Most local energy drink producers work in cooperation with foreign producers such as Kratingdaeng of Thailand and Japan's Lipovitan.

Others operate their own factories and produce only their own brands. PT Konimex Indonesia, for example, produces Fit Up and PT Bintang Toedjoe produces Extra Joss. There are also other companies that serve only to import overseas brands.

The materials used in producing energy drinks are mostly imported. Energy drinks vary in composition and the energy boost comes from diverse sources such as: taurine, royal jelly, guarana extract, inositol, multi-vitamins and caffeine.

Bottled energy drinks here are priced at between Rp 2,500 to Rp 3,000 (about 35 US cent) a bottle. Drinks in the form of a powder or tablet are cheaper at between Rp 700 and Rp 1,000.

The increasing demand for the product means that the energy drink business has flourished but manufacturers face fierce competition as pharmaceutical companies compete to produce more popular versions.

In the early 1990s, Kratingdaeng energy drinks were all imported from Thailand. In 1997, its distributor -- PT Asia Sejahtera Perdana Pharmaceutical -- built a factory in Cicurug, Sukabumi, West Java, in cooperation with Thai producers, to meet the surge in local demand.

Kratingdaeng are also sold in Europe and the U.S. under the brand name Red Bull.

PT Asia Sejahtera Perdana Pharmaceutical (ASPP)'s General Manager Riko Sistanto said that sales had been promising over the last few years. "At present our company can sell up to 200 million bottles a year," he said.

Currently, Kratingdaeng controls between 70 percent and 80 percent of the market in Java, he added.

He says that Kratingdaeng products are hygienic and safe for consumption because they are produced under international guidelines.

Kratingdaeng uses mountain spring water as a base for the drink. "The materials are processed without skin contact to ensure that they are perfectly sterile," said Riko.

Other pharmaceutical producers of energy drinks are PT Bintang Toedjoe and the Surakarta-based PT Konimex Indonesia.

PT Bintang Toedjoe, the producers of Extra Joss, have been in the business for several years. The company also reported a significant increase in sales.

"Many enjoy Extra Joss because of its 'freshness' and at an affordable price of below Rp1000 per sachet, we are gaining a wider market," PT Bintang Toedjoe's Assistant Marketing Director, Ferdinand Aryanto, said.

"Those whose jobs are particularly energetic consume Extra Joss as an everyday drink," he added.

The Surakarta-based PT Konimex Indonesia also enjoys popular consumption of its drink, Fit Up.

The company whose main buyers are hard laborers produces the energy drink in the form of a tablet.

"Most of our consumers are hard workers, including drivers who are working at night and it is more convenient for them to carry the drink in a tablet form," said Fit Up's spokesman.