Monster Beverage looks for a buzz from food stamps

It's marketing itself as a beverage instead of a supplement to qualify for sale to millions of consumers on the government program.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 21, 2013 11:38AM

Cans of Monster Beverage Corp. energy drinks (© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)The food stamp economy is no small slice of the U.S. population, and Monster Beverage (MNST) is taking notice.

The company, which revamped its label last month so the energy drinks are categorized as beverages instead of dietary supplements, is now explaining one of its motivations: to qualify for food stamp purchases. 

"Monster Energy drinks could equally satisfy the regulatory requirements" for food stamps, spokesman Michael Sitrick told The New York Times

Sadly, that's a growing market. About 47.6 million Americans received food stamp benefits, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to March data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means the program added nearly 3 million Americans to its rolls in only two years. 

The idea of buying an energy drink with food stamps might seem, well, odd, given that the program is designed to "buy foods for the household to eat, such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, dairy products." Still, while cigarettes and alcohol are excluded from food stamp purchases, the program does cover a wide variety of products with little nutritional value. 

That includes Mountain Dew, Oreos, Kit-Kat bars and Cheez-It crackers, according to Live Science. Still, food stamps can't be used to buy drinks that qualify as supplements, the Food and Drug Administration notes

While eating junk food certainly isn't healthful, energy drinks have come under fire for some serious risks. Lawmakers have asked the FDA to examine the safety of the products, while a study issued earlier this year found that the number of emergency room visits tied to energy drinks doubled from 2007 to 2011.

Monster claimed the study was flawed, noting that it didn't support "any conclusion that energy drinks are unsafe for consumers."

The label change on Monster's beverages means the company is listing "nutrition facts" instead of "supplemental facts," and it's including caffeine content, which The Times says reaches between 140 milligrams and 160 milligrams, or about half of a Starbucks (SBUX) 16-ounce cup of coffee. 

Questions about safety have taken a toll on the energy drink market. A recent regulatory filing from Monster cited "softness" in demand because of the negative publicity. 

By reaching out to the legions of Americans receiving food stamps, Monster appears to be betting it can energize its sales with some help from the government's $81 billion in food stamp spending

More on moneyNOW

Mar 21, 2013 11:56AM
  Rather than add more junk like this expensive garbage to food stamps, the program should tighten up. Understand this, the program is there to insure people young and old have quality food to eat with nutritional value. It is intended to help the welfare of the poor. Why is this so hard to understand. One of these monsters costs more than a loaf of bread (as do cheetos and doritos) Don't tell me it's up to the consumer , when in fact i am paying for it with my over-burdened tax dollars. The junk needs to be taken out of the system, not added to it.
Mar 21, 2013 12:48PM
Food Stamps are one of the most abused and wasteful social program this country has ever developed. A family of four receives more money monthly then my family of five spends a month on food. The amount paid out each month should be cut by at least one third. Purchases by food stamps should be restricted to the following: Fresh/frozen non prepared meats & fish, fresh/frozen non prepared vegetables, deli meats/cheeses, canned goods, breads, non sweetened dairy, and juices. The following would be banned from being purchased by food stamps: Soda, bottled water, power and energy drinks, coffee, tea, ice cream, candy, energy bars, any pre-prepared meals or sandwiches, snacks/junk food, pet food, cigarettes and alcohol. If these rules would be followed, no one would be hungry and we the tax payers would save billions.
Mar 21, 2013 1:38PM

I work in the meat department of a grocery store. I have seen way too many times these lazy, useless pieces of crap come in and buy the top cuts of meat offered. While the hard working people and the ONES WHO REALLY NEED THE ASSISTANCE buy the bare minimum just to make ends meet. You can tell who these worthless human beings are by a few factors.

1. 3-4 kids and the woman has more on the way.

2. Wearing pajamas while talking inconsiderately on their i-Phones while yoou are trying to wait on them.

3. Smelling like they just climbed out of the bottom of either a beer vat and/or a bong.

4. Pants hanging down to the back of their knees. (White and black boys both fall in this catagory so don't give me any racists junk.)

5. Usually cursing up a strom, showing how truly uneducated they are. And they can not even properly pronounce whatever they wish to purchase. (Could also be from lack of being able to read the sign or package, which also shows their uneducated ways.)

6. High dollar products being bought for themselves and a month's supply of Ramen noodles for their kids to get by on.


   I harbor no hard feeling for the people who truly need the help. Growing up my family had to survive off of them. But it was a shameful feeling we had one and all to be on them. These scumbags get their rocks off being a complete waste of life and a blight on this society.


Ex. 1,Lobster was bought on one card and money taken out, yes cash back, was used for buying the beer by the same person.


Ex. 2, Poor 18 year old girl buys 200 cans of soda from Sam's Club on her card. She sells the cans at a half the price to neighbor, and is paid in cash a fraction of what the cans cost (Not her money, but it is cash in her pocket). Then poor little 18 year old files a theft report to get a new card, because she needs it for her poor litlle children. This case was proven fraud, yet nothing happened to her.


Now think of all the others who don't get caught, and multiply it. There's your tax money.

Mar 21, 2013 12:36PM
In a state of around 10M, Michigan has 1.8M bridge cards (food stamps)  Average amount per month is $530.  That is $1.145 BILLION for just one state.  Now guess what party most of these folks voted for? 
Mar 21, 2013 12:35PM
It's a sad state of affairs when companies feel the need to remarket their products to capture the government dollars provided by the "food stamp President".  What is this world coming to?
Mar 21, 2013 1:08PM
Sad to think that after reading a story like this, half of you idiots still think more gov is the answer.
Mar 21, 2013 1:29PM
There should be no soft drinks, energy drinks, cookies, candy, chips, etc bought with food stamps.  Food stamps are for food and the esentials for sustaining life not pleasure foods.  My can't our government stick to the principals of a program and do the right thing.  If the program was correctly managed, then people would be more likely to "try" to find a job.  Where is the insentive to "try?"  For some people losing a job is a benefit.  They get every food they want on food stamps and their umemployment  checks cover over their housing.  They have no desire to "try" and succeed or contribute to society.  The government should require they work for the food stamps and unemployment instead of paying people to do the lower skilled jobs, e.g. mowing the grass and picking up trash on the sideways of the road.  Delivering food to the elder.  People have no self respect if it is given to them.  They need to work to have self respect.  Is that so hard to understand.
Mar 21, 2013 1:53PM
I have been in the grocery business for 45 years and I have seen every possible abuse of the food stamp and WIC programs. I worked in one store that had 90% of their customers using food cards (some were their own cards some were not, many had multiple cards). They all drove nicer cars than mine. Most of the women had false fingernails and cell phones that they used throughout their shopping experience. I could not afford a cell phone at the time and have never enjoyed the luxury of false fingernails. Many purchases included nothing but party foods (chips, pop, deli trays, and prepared desserts.) Oh, not that it's important, but most of these recipients knew how to speak very little, if any, English. Sometimes abuse of the program has been so great, like customers selling their cards in our parking lot, and a tavern owner taking food cards for payment of alcohol and then using the cards for purchasing pop for his tavern, that I have actually reported it to the proper authorities. But nothing was ever done about it.
Mar 21, 2013 12:51PM

Food stamps are abused terrible, if you wnat to know who is on the program just look around when you are shopping. Te working person or person paying out of tehr pocket looks at price and compares value. It seems to me a lot of  food stamp shoppers pay no attention to weekly specials, they can simply grab what they want and fill a cart with high priced junk.  I work, so therefore I have buy store label or private label  to assist me helping pay my taxes and kids college tuition.



It is a sad state of affairs with some of  the entitlement group they have no regard for the person paying the freight!  When will we wake up go back and issue surplus food like they didi in the 1960's..  Oh I forgot that would hurt the supermarkets and stores in certain neighborhoods were junk food regardless of price is king.

Mar 21, 2013 1:09PM
Why would people that sit around all day...need twice the caffeine drink? Would it assist them in getting the energy to get up and get a job?...if it does...sure put it on the list.
Mar 21, 2013 2:04PM

One day I was on my way to a birthday party and had to stop at the store to pick up a card.  Standing in front of me in line were two young girls around 18 or 19 and between them they had 4 children.  The youngest was an infant in a stroller.  The other three were maybe 3,4 & 5.  The two girls and the three children all had a soda in their hands as well as chips and a couple of candy bars.  When they got up to the cashier to pay they pulled out their foodstamp card to pay for it.  It was around $23.  All I could think of is that $23 could have paid for several meals for those children and they just wasted it on junk.  Keep paying those taxes people.

Mar 21, 2013 2:17PM
I work a full time job and a part-time job in the evenings. My husband works a part-time job while looking for full-time. He has lost a 2 jobs in the past 5 years, once with Chrysler and a Securtity Job. We receive food stamps with a family total of 5, and only receive 250 in food stamps. I manage to provide food to my family on this amount by also clipping coupons and shopping at Aldis. Not all people abuse the program, I do see were it is, when i see some one whip there card out to pay at convience stores where mark up on food is usually high, and then they pay cash on a carton of smokes, and beer. I restrict all my food buying to meats, canned foods and fresh veggies and fruit. I pay all my bills, no extras, no fancy tv bills. what extra cash i have i try to save but usually finds way to be spent on school activities, repairs to house or cars. I am all for drug testing on this program, and even stricter guidelines.
Mar 21, 2013 2:02PM

Monster doesn't need to make a change, but the USDA sure does.  I hear the tired old argument all the time that poor people are overweight because they can only afford cheap food.  Here's what I see every single weekend when I go to the grocery store:  Carts loaded with with name-brand chips, frozen pizzas, cake, soda, and other empty-calorie items.  I can spot an EBT cart a mile away.  They get up to the register, and yep, out comes that food stamp card.  They're really easy to recognize in my state.  They all look exactly the same.  Meanwhile I stand in line behind them with my meager little collection of store-brand food because I can't afford all that sort of junk.  I wouldn't buy it even if I COULD afford it, but that's beside the point.


Too much of the food stamp money is going to purchase empty calories that do nothing whatsoever to contribute to the health and nutrition of the recipient.  They are getting very little value for their dollars, but by golly, it tastes good, and I guess that's all some people worry about.


Food stamps need to be set up like WIC, where you can only purchase very specific items with it.  Stuff like vegetables, beans, some meats, dairy products, healthy cereals, flour, cooking oil, etc.  NO chips.  NO cakes.  NO Monster-type beverages.  They do NOTHING to help keep you going.  All they do is make you fat (or in the case of the energy drinks, really jittery).


I have no problem with people who are legitimately and TEMPORARILY down on their luck receiving food stamps.  I'm all for it.  But generation after generation?  NO.  That has GOT to stop.  We're not doing the recipients a favor, and we're not doing our country a favor.  We've bred several generations of people who contribute NOTHING to society, and they've gone on to produce several more generations of children who feel entitled to exactly the same "benefits".  How many more people can we add to those numbers before the entire nation collapses under the weight?

Mar 21, 2013 1:41PM
woe is me. I thought I had heard it all. what the hell is going on? its really crazy when someone on govt' assistance eats better than I (one of the taxpayers footing the bill) do. I can't afford lobster . so, now with their free cell phones and cable what the heck are they going to do with all that energy???? apply for more assistance ????
Mar 21, 2013 3:14PM

Food Stamps serve a purpose, & are necessary. The rules ought to be that Food Stamps can only be used for food staples & necessities. Hamburger, not steak. No fancy foods. Bulk & family size packages. Generic or cheapest packages only. It irritates the hell out of me to see ladies whose asses are about 3 axe handles wide in the grocery line buying pop, potato chips, candy bars, cookies & other junk food with food stamps.


Anyone caught cheating should be permanently booted off the program.

Mar 21, 2013 12:08PM
Until our factory was closed ( product line moved overseas ) in 2009, I'd spent 23 years with 3M.  Full time, 50-60 hrs a week........and decent pay with all the overtime added in, some point in the 1990s, as our technology & manufacturing processes were improving....being streamlined & upgraded with the development of new machinery, etc........we were putting out MORE & BETTER product FASTER..........with FEWER employees required to run the equipment.   I can't fault the corporations for doing what they can to cut costs, but the downside is....there are FEWER jobs out there.   At the same time, we've got 7 billion + walking around the planet now.   Underemployment/unemployment is a worldwide issue.   I don't see how it can change anytime soon.   We seem to have 'out-smarted' ourselves.    And I don't think it has anything to do with which party is 'in office'.
Firstfrog.........First I want to say I am sorry for your situation and secondly I thank you for facing reality. You are an exception to those who think all good paying jobs were transferred overseas. More well paying manufacturing jobs were lost to technology than were transferred overseas. A plant located in my area employed over 7,000 people in 1980. Today, due to technology, the plant employees 1,700 people. Toady's production is 3 times the 1980 production
Mar 21, 2013 1:47PM
The food stamp set  and teens that don't yet know better is thier target audience. They've figuired out how to get you to pay for it.
Mar 21, 2013 1:58PM
Thief's are after money and they don't care who's money it is..... America's programs to help the poor and the takers give a big incentive for people in all categories to steal taxpayer $$$$.
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