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NEW YORK -- Energy shots aren't just for young people who need an extra jolt to party -- or study -- all night. According to a Wall Street Journal report, a growing segment of consumers is gravitating toward the stimulating drinks: Baby Boomers aged 60 and up.
Traditionally, energy shots -- those 2-ounce bottles that fit in one's pocket and contain a blend of caffeine, vitamins, herbs and often, sugar -- have been marketed to teenagers and twenty-somethings who want to keep going into the wee hours of the morning. But according to the report, energy shots are more frequently being sold alongside senior-friendly products such as wrinkle cream and Ensure nutrition shakes, as was seen at one Raleigh, N.C., Costco store.
Manoj Bhargava, CEO of Living Essentials, which makes the shot market king 5-Hour Energy, began focusing on seniors last October, when the company attended the AARP's annual convention. Bhargava and other company staffers handed out thousands of samples at the show. "It was amazing to see the number of people who took it right there and then," said Bhargava.
The company started advertising in the AARP Bulletin, which reaches 22 million subscribers, last January. Its ad featured Cliff Clavin of "Cheers" (who was played by actor John Ratzenberger) and a bicycle. "Getting older is fine," said the ad, "But not having the energy to do the things I enjoy isn't."
Company representatives also have given coupons to doctors to offer their patients, informing the physicians that 5-Hour Energy's main ingredients appear naturally in foods. Supposedly beneficial ingredients include niacin, prescribed on its own to fight cholesterol, and citicoline, which is used to battle dementia in some countries.
The report also noted that NVE Pharmeceuticals, the second-place leader of the energy shots market, has also turned to Baby Boomers as potential customers, advertising on television channels with older viewers, such as the Learning Channel and Discovery Channel. NVE's marketing chief Karen Finocchio has stated her 74-year-old mother drinks NVE's 6 Hour Power shot every day with lunch.
The AARP itself said that its health consultants examined 5-Hour before allowing Living Essentials to place advertisements in the Bulletin. Group Publisher Jim Fishman said that while AARP has refused ads for tobacco products and reverse mortgage services, the company found nothing worrisome about the energy shot. Recently, ConsumerLab.com studied 5-hour and found that one shot contains 207 milligrams of caffeine, less than the amount found in a tall Starbucks coffee.
This might soothe the worries of some Boomer consumers, but Consumer Reports stated that while the caffeine would give them a lift, there was "little if any research" that showed benefits from any of the other ingredients.
The trend also has its skeptics, according to the report. Doctor Evelyn C. Granieri, chief of geriatric medicine and aging at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, stated that most adults already get enough nutrients and vitamins from other sources, making the ones found in energy shots unnecessary and unhelpful. "Medically and physiologically, it doesn't hold water," Granieri stated.
But if seniors continue to warm to energy shots, Baby Boomer-aimed advertising is likely to continue. Bhargava has already declared that he isn't concerned with the prospect of 5-Hour losing its prestige with the younger crowd, citing its "cheesy commercials" and "not-very-cool name."