France reluctantly lifts ban on Red Bull

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 17th July 2008

France has ended a twelve year ban on the sale of the Red Bull energy drink in its original formula. Until now, the Austrian company was required to sell the drink in France without Taurine, one of the key ingredients.

The EU forced the French Government’s hand, claiming that, in the absence of any conclusive evidence that the drink is harmful, it should be allowed to be sold. Any product made or sold in the EU cannot be banned unless there is reputable evidence of a health risk.

The French Government maintain concerned, however, and will be monitoring the situation and advising consumers that there is a possible risk associated with consumption. Red Bull has since announced they will label the product with a warning to young children and pregnant women and a recommendation for moderate consumption due to the caffeine content of the drink.

French health minister Roselyne Bachelot outlined her fears last month, expressing “serious reservations” about the health of the energy drink amid claims it could cause “neurophysiological problems”. Ms Bachelot described it as an “explosive cocktail”, but there remains no proof of such claims.

Red Bull’s energy drink has also been met with concern from a number of other governments worldwide, with bans enforced in Norway, Denmark, Uruguay and Iceland. In England it has been blamed for strengthening the binge drinking culture, with the use of the drink in combination with spirits believed to increase energy and mask the symptoms of drunkenness without limiting the impact of alcohol. Such issues appear to be having little impact on sales, however, with over 3 billion products sold last year.

Red Bull, which remains the clear market leader in the energy drink category despite increased competition, recently launched Red Bull Simply Cola – an all-natural beverage that seeks to take market share from carbonated drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The new product, released in eight countries, outlined the desire for the company to leverage the strength of their brand, which has grown considerably over the past decade.
Simply Cola represented the first step outside the energy beverage sector for Red Bull, and success in the cola market would highlight just how strong their brand is given that competing with Coca-Cola and Pepsi has proven to be almost impossible. The failure of Virgin Cola is one example of the many who have tried and failed.

Early sales figures, indicating success or otherwise, are yet to be announced by the company.