Fans of Monster Energy, the popular high-caffeine energy drink, may not notice the change: its ingredients will be the same and its familiar label bearing a green, clawlike monogram will change only slightly. But the drink’s maker has decided after a decade of selling it as a dietary supplement to market it as a beverage, meaning that it will be subject to different regulations.
Among them: Monster Beverage, the nation’s biggest seller of energy drinks, will no longer be required to tell federal regulators about reports potentially linking its products to deaths and injuries.
The company’s move, which follows a similar regulatory makeover by another brand, Rockstar Energy, comes amid intensifying scrutiny of energy drink safety.
Monster Beverage’s new cans will also disclose caffeine content for the first time.
For a decade, Monster sold its products as dietary supplements, apparently as part of a strategy to convince consumers that they were different from beverages. But the company, like its competitors, has run into a slew of bad news, including the disclosure in October that the FDA had received reports that mentioned its drinks in connection with deaths and injuries. The mention of a product in an incident report filed with the FDA does not mean the product played a role in a death or injury, and such reports may provide few details.
A spokesman for Monster, Michael Sitrick, said the company had decided to market its products as beverages for several reasons. One was to stop what he described as “misguided criticism" that the company was selling its energy drinks as dietary supplements because of the belief that such products were more lightly regulated than beverages. Another consideration, he said, was that consumers can use government-subsidized food stamps to buy beverages. An executive vice president at Rockstar, Joseph Cannata, said the company had made the change because consumers found food labels easier to read.
A lawyer who represents supplement makers, Justin Prochnow, said companies like Monster and Rockstar might have had another incentive. Over the past two years, the FDA has intensified its scrutiny of the supplement industry’s manufacturing practices, driving up production costs.