Red Bull, the Austrian-owned drinks company, said it sold 3.5bn cans worldwide last year – overall sales hit €3bn, a 17% increase on 2006. This was partly thanks to soaring sales in emerging markets: South America and Australia both saw sales increases of more than 40%, while revenues in Africa leapt nearly 60%. But even in its core European market it still enjoyed sales growth of 25% – despite the fact it’s been banned in at least three countries.
Red Bull continues to divide opinion in the UK. Hyperactive clubbers, overworked wage slaves and sleep-deprived students love it – while most of the rest of the population finds it so sickly-sweet that they can barely stomach more than a mouthful (based on a statistically-insignificant MT office straw poll).
And then there are the health concerns. Norway, France, Uruguay and Iceland have all decided that its sky-high sugar and caffeine content are not good for the insides of its citizens, and banished it from their shores. Only this week in the UK, a 15-year-old was taken to hospital with heart palpitations after necking (an admittedly excessive) eight cans of the stuff. Red Bull may boast that it gives you wings, but in this case they were only good for flying to Casualty.
Next up in Red Bull’s plan for world domination are the burgeoning markets of Russia, India and Japan – although it will have to go some to beat the magnificently-named Pocari Sweat and Calpis, two of the market leaders in the Land of the Rising Sun. It also wants to ramp up its US sales, and is in negotiations with McDonald’s about selling its drinks at the Golden Arches (talk about a calorific lunch – that’s not exactly going to solve America’s obesity problem…).
All of which is good news for Dietrich Mateschitz, who founded Red Bull in 1987 (and has probably been awake ever since). He still owns 49% of a company now thought to be worth about €10bn. And since everyone seems to be desperate to work harder, faster and longer these days, his concoction might be standard NHS issue before too long...