A deluge of energy-drink consumers has crashed the site where anyone can claim $10—or, if they prefer, $15 worth of Red Bull. (That should be an ocean of Red Bull, or a negative amount of Red Bull, but the company is paying out according to "market price.") The offer is the result of a large class-action settlement, and it applies only to people who have purchased Red Bull in the last 12 years. But no proof of purchase is necessary.
Red Bull GmbH, the Austria-based company that sells the eponymous "energy drink," settled a lawsuit recently over false claims made in advertising the product—including that it will give a person wings. The company will pay out $13 million. The claim site went live yesterday to widespread celebration and consternation.
Red Bull is part of the trend in rebranding soda as energy drinks and, apart from setbacks like this, succeeding fabulously. Red Bull differs from traditional soda only in that it contains taurine (an amino acid) and B-vitamins. Unless you are deficient in taurine or B-vitamins, the energy promised in the marketing of the energy drink comes from the sugar and caffeine, just like soda. And the caffeine content, at 80 mg per can, is modest relative to other similar products. Another soda marketed as an energy drink, Rockstar, contains twice as much caffeine as Red Bull. Those ubiquitous little 5-Hour Energy shots outdo both at 208 mg. But all pale compared to coffee in the quantities it's now sold. A Starbucks venti has 415 mg of caffeine. And that's what upset plaintiffs.