Lawsuit says Red Bull is too wimpy

A complaint in a New York federal court calls out the energy drink for having less caffeine than a cup of coffee.

By Jason Notte Jan 17, 2013 3:35PM
Credit: QMI Agency/Rex Features
Caption: Red Bull energy drinksRed Bull is learning what its competition just recently discovered: The U.S. energy drink market is a downer these days.


Red Bull is the target of a lawsuit filed Tuesday that claims the company's "Red Bull gives you wings" slogan is false advertising, according to Reuters, because the energy drink contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee.


The lead plaintiff, Benjamin Careathers of the Bronx, N.Y., has been drinking Red Bull since 2002 and filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York because he and others in the lawsuit feel the $2.19 price per can isn't getting them enough caffeine.


This is the exact opposite of the problem faced by Red Bull rivals Monster Energy (MNST) and 5-Hour Energy, both of which have been scrutinized by the Food and Drug Administration for packing their drinks with caffeine. The 5-Hour Energy shots have had their "no crash" claim questioned in the New York Times by a national advertising group and have been the subject of reports to the FDA during the last four years citing the possible role of 5-Hour Energy in 13 deaths.


Monster, meanwhile, saw its stock plummet in October after the FDA confirmed "adverse incident reports" of five deaths involving Monster energy drinks. Monster is now being sued by the parents of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who suffered heart problems in December 2011 after drinking Monster Energy on two consecutive days.


The FDA limits caffeine content in soda and considers 71 milligrams per 12 ounces safe for consumption. Energy drinks contain significantly more caffeine, but exploit a loophole in the FDA's caffeine guidelines, labeling themselves "diet supplements," to avoid the limit. For example, 24-ounce Monster drinks contain almost seven times as much caffeine as the most caffeinated sodas.


By comparison, an 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine. That roughly 9.5 milligrams per ounce still exceeds the 5.9 milligrams found in an ounce of high-caffeine soda. The lawsuit claims, however, that a tablet of regular strength NoDoz contains 100 milligrams of caffeine and costs only 30 cents.


"Even a 12 ounce serving of Starbucks (SBUX) coffee costs $1.85 and would contain far more caffeine than a regular serving of Red Bull," the lawsuit says. It has a point. A cup of Starbucks regular Pike Place Roast that size has 260 milligrams of caffeine, or more than three times than of a can of Red Bull.


The plaintiffs want Red Bull to stop the "gives you wings" campaign, which would likely put a serious crimp in its annual Red Bull Air Race and its Flugtag airborne soap box derby. More importantly, though, those named in the lawsuit are also asking for an unspecified refund.


Energy drinks make up only 3.3% of soft drink sales, according to Beverage Digest, but sales of the caffeine-laden products rose 17% 2011. Monster and Red Bull both reported double-digit percentage point sales increases in the last year, but the recent spate of energy drink lawsuits suggest a caffeine crash may be coming.


More on Money Now

67Comments
Jan 17, 2013 5:31PM
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No one forced the plaintiff to buy it or drink it.  If he doesn't like the product, then don't consume it.  It's very simple.  Oh, but wait!  That wouldn't get him the payday, would it?
Jan 17, 2013 5:15PM
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Taurine has always been a key ingredient in many energy drinks. It increases the heart rate and gives a boost to metabolism. From the start Red Bull has always referenced taurine, not caffeine, as the ingredient most responsible for giving their product the ability to give a person the feeling of increased energy. Ridiculous law suit!!
Jan 17, 2013 6:56PM
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This is such bullshift. Too many sue happy Americans in this country out to steal other peoples money one way or another. People die every day due to car accedents but you don't see any lawsuits being filed against the car manufactures. So stupid. If I were the judge I'd laugh and throw out the case as well as the one concerning Monster Energy drinks.
Jan 17, 2013 8:45PM
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If you don't like it, don't BUY IT! This should NOT be allowed to even enter the court system. It is ignorant people like this that cause the back log in our court system. No one has a gun to his head to buy, so doe us all a favor and  GO AWAY and buy something else. It is not false advertising, it is JUST advertising.
Jan 17, 2013 7:00PM
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If the plaintiff could read the p has known all along how much caffeine was in the drink and how much was in other drinks. It seems that all people care about these days is who can I sue. Probably doesn't even realize most oh the payday will go to the lawyer if BIG if he gets one. People must take some responsibility for themselves. Come on ten years and now suing.
Jan 17, 2013 9:02PM
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Judges in this country need to autonomously throw out frivolous cases like this and order the plaintiff's to pay the defendants legal fees.

Oh yeah, suing cuz your coffee was hot is ridiculous too!

Jan 17, 2013 8:47PM
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2.19? It's 2.99-4.99 here. The better lawsuit would have been that it is addictive. They put the ingredients on the can. If you can't read too bad.
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First time I've ever seen someone complaining about these drinks being weak.
Jan 17, 2013 9:36PM
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Kinda sad to see someone admit he is an idiot, but wants money because he is. We really need to provide Judges an option to through out a lawsuit deemed frivilous and charge the plaintiff  a fine for wasting court costs and time. no wonder our courts are overflowing with cases. Benjimen Careathers is an idiot and hope employers see this and flag him as an un-desireable job candidate.
Jan 17, 2013 8:37PM
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Why on earth would any parent let their child drink that toxic sludge? Are they completely lacking in any parental skills? Don't buy it, don't drink it, don't let your Underage Children buy it or drink it, problem solved.
Jan 17, 2013 9:08PM
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Go figure someone is suing monster,  this is what is' wrong with this country you can sue for anything now.   It's not the companies fault that she had heart problems and if I remember they have warnings on the cans, Hope that kids parents don't win or get anything and  they have to pay for both sides legal cost maybe that way such useless lawsuits will be kept from happening

Jan 17, 2013 9:49PM
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Let's review. He's been drinking the stuff since 2002. When did it dawn on him that he wasn't going to sprout wings? And if he did sprout wings, would he have sued for that if they didn't work to his satisfaction or made him a laughingstock? So, what are his damages, that no one calls him Angel or Tweety? His lawyer must be the same one who sued Newtown, what's his name?  Pinsky
Jan 17, 2013 9:34PM
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What would be really funny would be for this clown to lose the lawsuit, and then have to pony up and reimburse Red Bull's legal fees. Then he can buy all the NoDoz he wants, only having to pay 30 cents per pop instead of $2.19.
Jan 17, 2013 11:11PM
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Really??? If I was a judge and this case came before me, I would toss it out and fine the attorney for being stupid and wasting the court's time.
Jan 17, 2013 6:32PM
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It still goes great with vodka.  Mmmmm....Redbull Stoli....aghhhaghhghghhg.
Jan 17, 2013 10:07PM
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This is so absurd it isnt even funny. This guys been drinking it since 2002, continued to purchase the product at 2.19 a can and JUST NOW claims it dosent have enough caffine? Just another dumbed down idiot for ya. Hope ya lose ya moron!
Jan 17, 2013 9:33PM
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First people sued because they had to much caffeine and now they sue because it doesn't have enough!!! You know, if you take every problem in this country and follow them back to there roots you'll find that greed is a key player.
Jan 17, 2013 6:29PM
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really; someone  thought the slogan;"Redbull gives you wings" was true? Go to MickeyD's in chitcago they got dim dar wings!
Jan 17, 2013 9:32PM
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Love Red Bull.  Do not like any other energy drink I have tried.  I agree with Carol, no one makes you buy anything.  Don't like it, don't buy it.
Jan 18, 2013 2:10AM
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Another AMERICAN  !!!  PIG !!!!  Using the Legal System to get paid . If it had too much Caffeine . He would still  !!! SUE!!!  Because it made him sick , or caused death . Then the family would be out to collect the blood MONEY !!   This country is all about LAWSUITS !!! .   A  sleaze ball ATTORNEY And his  Disabled scumbag client ,  Looking to exploit the system for a payday !!!!   Or just another unhappy consumer who feels he or she . Needs to collect millions .!!!   For their inconvenience . And the stars and stripes right behind them .  What a scam !!!!
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