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Chemicals are really simple. You mix a couple things together and sell it for more than the materials cost.
February 9, 2012 3:26 PM   Subscribe

"In one corner of Manoj Bhargava’s office is a cemetery of sorts. It’s a Formica bookcase, its shelves lined with hundreds of garishly colored screw-top plastic bottles not much taller than shot glasses. Front and center is a Cadillac-red bottle of 5-Hour Energy, the two-ounce caffeine and vitamin elixir that purports to keep you alert without crashing. In eight years 5-Hour has gone from nowhere to $1 billion in retail sales. Truckers swear by it. So do the traders in Oliver Stone’s 2010 sequel to Wall Street. So do hungover ­students. It’s $3 a bottle, and it has made Bhargava a fortune."
posted by vidur (59 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I FUCKING LOVE THAT STUFF

Starts scrubbing FPP obsessively with toothbrush.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:31 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or to put it another way: no sir, never again. Too tweaky.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:31 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate those commercials that go on and on about how 5-Hour Energy is better than coffee because it's easy and doesn't take any preparation time.

As if the caffeine is the only reason anyone drinks coffee. How offensive.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:44 PM on February 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


After reading the article, I did enjoy this quote:

I thought, If I’m tired, am I also thirsty?

However, you know what else is awesome, wakes you up, helps you focus and tastes delicious?

Espresso.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:50 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


infinitywaltz: I have actually yelled just that, at my TV, several times. Few ads actually incite such a response.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:52 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


After being slave to the meth needle for a good part of my late 20's/early 30's (two years clean next week) none of these type of energy drinks do it for me. All it does is guarantee what I will be dreaming about later that night. So, I steer clear.
posted by holdkris99 at 3:53 PM on February 9, 2012 [21 favorites]


The tingling means it's working.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:56 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


My partner and I both do that too, Dark Messiah. Hey, you should come over and have coffee with us!
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:57 PM on February 9, 2012


"As if the caffeine is the only reason anyone drinks coffee. How offensive."

The most offensive ideas are often the most true
posted by Blasdelb at 3:59 PM on February 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


this article gave me that 2:30 feeling
posted by nathancaswell at 4:00 PM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Also, apparently it also contains a chemical that renders the user incapable of locating a trash can, if the sidewalks and gutters of America are any indication.
posted by sonascope at 4:04 PM on February 9, 2012 [26 favorites]


Yeba Mate - different kinda upper and to have you ponder the anti-oxidants:

Make 2 cups in glass. Cover one with plastic wrap in such a way that no air can get to the liquid. Leave the other open. Note the color change 8 hours later.

As if the caffeine is the only reason anyone drinks coffee. How offensive.

There is another way to take one's coffee.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:04 PM on February 9, 2012


Stupid people are an infinitely renewable resource to exploit. Good on Mr. Bhargava for realizing this.
posted by Renoroc at 4:14 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd been experimenting with large doses of niacin and I'd taken my dose like an hour before trying that stuff. It felt like a bad mushroom body high without the fun part. If I hadn't done all that niacin research so recently, I'd have gone to the hospital.
posted by cmoj at 4:14 PM on February 9, 2012


I used to drink caffeinated sodas to stay awake when I worked late. Now I just drink a lot of water. The need to pee works just as well for me as twitch-juice and is healthier.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:23 PM on February 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


"As if the caffeine is the only reason anyone drinks coffee. How offensive."

The most offensive ideas are often the most true


Depends on who is getting offended, really.
posted by vidur at 4:34 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Odd that the Aussie MeFites haven't made it to this thread pointing out that Berocca did it first, without the caffeine, and doesn't taste like ass. I don't get twitchy with Berocca either, but YMMV.
posted by Runes at 4:49 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I drink non-coffee caffeinated energy drinks only when it is not feasible for me to obtain decent coffee. Most of the large-can carbonated Monster-alikes just taste like bizarro Mountain Dew to me, which is to say they taste medicinal and I choke them down like go-medicine. Good coffee I drink for the taste and for the caffeine.
posted by killdevil at 4:53 PM on February 9, 2012


The good energy drink is this which is non-carbonated, sugar free and tastes like lemonade
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:06 PM on February 9, 2012


What is up with those ads? I just want to punch the spokesperson every time, and I normally don't want to punch anyone.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:07 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Odd that the Aussie MeFites haven't made it to this thread pointing out that Berocca did it first, without the caffeine, and doesn't taste like ass.

Because berocca tastes like arse.
posted by pompomtom at 5:08 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, it does not
posted by nostrada at 5:17 PM on February 9, 2012


The one time I drank one of these five hour energy things (before a run, because I am stupid and insane) I spent the whole time twitching and trying to chase a squirrel I saw during the first km instead of actually running. And bullshit there's no crash - my brain hit a wall and said 'nope, forget it, I'm done.' I'm surprised I didn't trip over my own feet and pull a tendon or something.

That stuff is awful, like they've chained up a diseased unicorn in the basement and bottled the rancid pee.
posted by zennish at 5:17 PM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


(not to derail and don't know if it matters, but the head of Rockstar Energy Drinks is the son of shock jock Michael Savage with whom he cofounded the Paul Revere Society)
posted by sineater at 5:19 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guy sounds like the creepy bad guy from a 3rd-rate slasher flick.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:21 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't help looking at this guy and thinking "what a royal asshole"

Emphasis mine:
Sitting in that cemetery are a dozen or so neon copycats with names like 6-Hour Power and 8-Hour Energy. Each has been sued, bullied or kicked off the market by Living Essentials’ lawyers. In front of each are little placards with a skull and crossbones drawn in felt-tip pen. Bhargava points at the gravestone of one of his late competitors and says with a chuckle, “Rest in peace.”
Ehehe funny, I slash them competitors! I rule! ...but..
Bhargava found himself at a natural products trade show in Anaheim, Calif. At one booth the sales reps peddled a 16-ounce concoction claiming to boost productivity for hours. Bhargava took a swig. “For the next six or seven hours I was in great shape,” he says. “I thought, Wow, this is amazing. I can sell this.
Oh ok so you figured it was a good product, who by somebody else figured out before you apparently.
Right away, though, he knew 16 ounces wouldn’t sell. He didn’t want to compete with Red Bull, at the time new to the market. Nor did he want to share fridge space with Coke or Pepsi.
No shit, competing with Coke or Pepsi, or even Red Bull, is a bad bad bad idea, but that would be some serious competition indeed.

He glanced at the ingredients label and made a mental note. Six months later his version was on the shelves, two ounces of ­caffeine-infused B vitamins such as niacin mixed with acids like taurine.

Oh so you:
1. got the idea from some other;
2. refused to take pepsi, coke, red bull head on cause, you know, they'd crush you;
3. released packs of lawyers to crush smaller fishes, cause their name vaguely resembled your product name...a copycat slashing other copycats, so that they don't undercut you with lower prices. Feh!

Now I wonder if there's an OpenCola equivalent for your product, for It's probably 99% water in bottle, well overpriced at $3 a pop.
posted by elpapacito at 5:30 PM on February 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


okay so i totally love 5-hour energy. i was really interested in the Hybrid60 company mentioned at the end of the article, but their webpage seems to be just a placeholder, and the only info i could google on hydraulic truck transmissions is from the EPA from 2006. hydrostatic transmissions are fascinating.
posted by moss free at 5:35 PM on February 9, 2012


Odd that the Aussie MeFites haven't made it to this thread pointing out that Berocca did it first, without the caffeine, and doesn't taste like ass.

Because berocca tastes like arse.

No, it does not


Okay, so I just went out and picked a Berocca (original flavour) for the first time in my life. Having never tasted arse/ass, I can't comment on that, but it does have a horrible taste. On the plus side, I am typing this at 250 wpm.
posted by vidur at 5:41 PM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


3. released packs of lawyers to crush smaller fishes, cause their name vaguely resembled your product name...a copycat slashing other copycats, so that they don't undercut you with lower prices. Feh!

You can't judge too much from this. Trademark law, unlike copyright law, has a sort of 'use or lose it' rule: if you allow a competitor to use a trademark that closely resembles yours, then after a while you won't be able to enforce your own trademark any more if people start ripping it off directly. Oftentimes, companies don't even want to attack the defendant very aggressively; they just need to create a record of defending their own trademark for future reference.

For example, there was a case recently where Apple (the computer company) sued some sort of pie shop in Germany called Apfelshop or something like that. Does Apple Computer Inc. hate pie? Of course not, as if I remember correctly the court said there was no danger of people confusing the two and Apple lost the suit. But Apple wasn't trying to put Apfelshop out of business, it was just going through the motions of reiterating its ownership of the famous apple trademark. If they didn't do so, and sat back passively as companies appeared to sell Apple Cars and Apple Chairs and Apple Paint and Apple Kites etc. etc. then eventually someone else would set up a company called Apple Computer (Services) or such like. The original Apple Computer would sue, but a court would say 'you let your trademark get diluted to the point of meaninglessness, so now we no longer enforce your ownership of it.'

In this case, the competitors were obviously surfing on the name of the existing brand, so the firm had little choice but to swat them away. If the competitors had called their products 'Zippity!' or something and put the stuff in distinctively different-shaped bottled and colors (known to lawyers as 'trade dress', related to trademarks), then there would have been no grounds for legal action...but the competitors would also have have to bootstrap their own marketing effort - which is expensive and time-consuming, as described. In short, trademarks are one area of law where you really can't take it personally, and where what appears like corporate heavy-handedness is actually an artifact of how the legal system works.

More than one firm has launched a product or service by deliberately naming it after something famous which they knew would result in a lawsuit and a blaze of free publicity for the plucky underdog. That only works if the product or service isn't actually competing in the same market though, and it's risky at best.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:57 PM on February 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


We need to legalize drinks with unconcentrated infusions of coca leaf, and sell coca tea by the bag. If Coca Cola was selling the original original recipe, I would become a soda customer again.
posted by clarknova at 6:34 PM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, while I know nothing about the product development, Bhargava's account is that he came up with the key idea of the product, which is putting less drink in energy drink.
posted by howfar at 6:36 PM on February 9, 2012


Odd that the Aussie MeFites haven't made it to this thread pointing out that Berocca did it first, without the caffeine, and doesn't taste like ass. I don't get twitchy with Berocca either, but YMMV.

Berocca's just Vitamin B dressed up in a fizzy seltzery format. The active ingredients are exactly the same as in any old B-complex vitamin tablets, only the tablets cost about a 10th as much as Berocca because they don't have the heavy marketing.

You could probably also do just as well by simply having a cup of Vegemite tea.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:41 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Coca Cola was selling the original original recipe, I would become a soda customer again.

POWER THIRST!
IT'S CRYSTAL METH IN A CAN!
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:53 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This stuff literally has no effect on me. I drank one before I went on a hike, it did nothing. Later I drank a Red Bull and off I went. Tried it again sometime later just to check, zip.

Some people swear by it, so who knows.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:08 PM on February 9, 2012


Everybody's metabolism is different, but all I know is this stuff works for me*. Red Bull, etc. just make me all anxious & jittery and taste like chemical death anyway, so two ounces is a feature.

*At least it'll have to do until a damn proper cup of tea becomes universally available.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:35 PM on February 9, 2012


The problem is that... well, I know three habitual tea drinkers and I cannot have them in the same place. Two of them got into a screaming argument at on point about what defines a 'proper' cup of tea.

And both of them are British national who are residents of the US.

If they can't get themselves sorted out on that, the rest of us are doomed beyond all recall when defining 'proper cup of tea', until nanotechnology lets us build smart containers that you can touch and the record in your fingertip data chip builds you your tea right there.

And then someone's still going to complain.
posted by mephron at 8:10 PM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have been known to drink 2 day old coffee dregs from mugs in the sink, spitting the cigarette butts after sucking the juice from the filter.

5 hour energy and similar drinks taste so bad I retch and have abdominal spasms after drinking one.

Marketing geniuses: either come up with a version that tastes good or find a way to sell caffeine and b complex vitamins pre mixed in a pill.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 8:17 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


OR find a way to market 2 ounces of coffee dregs with a cigarette butt floating in it. I'd sooner buy that than this 5-hour energy stuff, so long as the ads aren't any worse.
posted by axiom at 8:36 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


i say this as a man who has downed a shot of habenero infused tequila (a big mistake, but I did do it). This stuff is so foul tasting that I could not finish the one bottle I ever tried. It was worse than regular rockstar, which I thought had gone off in the can when I first tasted it.

I'll stick with standard soda, coffee and for those days when I really need a kick, tea concentrate or multiple cups of turkish coffee.
posted by Hactar at 9:03 PM on February 9, 2012


OR find a way to market 2 ounces of coffee dregs with a cigarette butt floating in it.

Isn't that what American coffee is?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:09 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Odd that the Aussie MeFites haven't made it to this thread pointing out that Berocca did it first

Yeah yeah, Japan's been selling little energy drinks since the 60s.
posted by Hoopo at 9:10 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're also huge in Thailand - eg Krating Daeng (spelling?) which comes in little medicine type bottles, and I think transformed into Red Bull as we know it (with a larger can & more liquid).
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:15 PM on February 9, 2012


Maybe it's my heavy depression, or something, but it takes a LOT of energy drinks, etc to make me feel it even. I'm talking i can go through four red bulls, in a row, and maybe i'm a little more active. I did drink Jolt as a kid though, maybe i'm adapted to it or something. Although there was that time i tried to kill myself by taking a bottle of Ephedrin Plus (100 pills back then, forget the dosage though) before cutting my wrist, and i didn't sleep for three days. Maybe that has something to do with it too... i have no idea.
posted by usagizero at 10:02 PM on February 9, 2012


All these energy drinks that have made big splashes seem to be in the way they're marketed. Red Bull simply lead the pack because of its mass marketing. Rockstar because they were smart enough to market themselves as a club drink. The 5-hour energy was that he made it small enough to sit on the counter next to the cashier at gas stations and truck stops. If he hadn't done that, it would've ended up in the back cooler with the other bajillion energy drinks.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:05 PM on February 9, 2012


Marketing geniuses: either come up with a version that tastes good or find a way to sell caffeine and b complex vitamins pre mixed in a pill.

My takeaway from this article wasn't that he's having a problem with marketing.
posted by rory at 2:37 AM on February 10, 2012


I have a half a Berocca daily but I favour the Orange flavour instead of the Original. I think boosting Vitamin B levels relaxes me. I feel less tired.
posted by vicx at 3:10 AM on February 10, 2012


We need to legalize drinks with unconcentrated infusions of coca leaf, and sell coca tea by the bag.

Coca tea on Amazon.
posted by pashdown at 6:25 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it is a coincidence 5 hour energy has sales exploding after 2004, when (from the wikipedia article on ephedra):

In response to accumulating evidence of adverse effects and deaths related to ephedra, the FDA banned the sale of ephedra-containing supplements on April 12, 2004.

Drinking Monsters and Rockstars and Red Bulls cannot possibly be good for you. Anything where you take it and go "hmm" is likely bad news, reminds me of a druggie friend of mine's description of PCP "man you can tell right away when you take it that shit is messing you up."

I am partial to tea myself. Samuel Johnson:

So hear it then, my Rennie dear,
Nor hear it with a frown,
You cannot make the tea so fast,
As I can gulp it down.

posted by bukvich at 7:06 AM on February 10, 2012


what defines a 'proper' cup of tea

Make it in warmed (hot to touch) teapot with boiling (not boiled) water. The tea goes in first, then the bubbling water is poured on top. Use as much tea as you like (although you'll need less than when making it by the cup) and let it brew as long as pleases you, perhaps 4 minutes might be a place to start. Teabags are fine, so are leaves. If you want milk have milk. Sugar and lemon? Personally I see that as a pancake topping, but fill your boots to the brim, safe in the knowledge that it'll still be a proper cup of tea.

The point is simply that tea must have the temperature and the time to infuse properly. Everything else is a matter of taste. Tea and boiling water in your warmed teapot is all that is needed; I like to put a tea cosy on mine.
posted by howfar at 7:57 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


howfar, there's a Mr. Bhargava on line 2.
posted by sneebler at 8:44 AM on February 10, 2012


5-Hour is like 5-HR which is like 5-HT which is 5-hydroxytryptamine which is serotonin
posted by exogenous at 9:13 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like weird candies and strange drinks. As a new father, I get sleepy, so I tried 5 Hour Energy, knowing that the large can energy drinks make me twitchy (at least they did, when I tried them in college on long drives or late-night studying).

It tastes weird, but so do most energy drinks. I actually like the weird taste, but it's nothing natural or really appealing. I like it because it's weird (which generally isn't a selling point). And it does perk me up. If you read the bottles, they suggest you drink part of a bottle for a small boost, or the whole thing for more energy. If you're trying one for the first time, start with part of a bottle. I usually drink one bottle over the course of two work days.
/shill
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on February 10, 2012


infinitywaltz: After reading the article, I did enjoy this quote:
I thought, If I’m tired, am I also thirsty?
However, you know what else is awesome, wakes you up, helps you focus and tastes delicious?

Espresso.


Did you say Turkish coffee? You should have said Turkish coffee. Man, that stuff's the greatest. Do you know what's sad? Few places will make Turkish coffee. (my impression of me after drinking a little cup of the magic elixir known as Turkish coffee, which was the best energy kick I've ever had, but it wore off pretty fast. I have since thought of buying my own Turkish coffee making equipment, but realized I should limit my intake, for my sake, and for others around me.)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:35 AM on February 10, 2012


I can't stand the weird juicy bubble gum taste of most energy drinks, so less ounces is actually a feature.

Howfar, just boiling as a caveat, the taps from espresso machines are so hot they actually make a muddy over-acidic cup of tea. I also think every variety of tea has its optimal steeping time, so it is complicated.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:37 AM on February 10, 2012


All hail Thunder Muscle! If you haven't seen The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, I highly recommend it.
posted by drklahn at 10:46 AM on February 10, 2012


Convince this guy to buy Ferraro and bring Pocket Coffee to North America. Then we'll talk real cash.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:58 AM on February 10, 2012


taps from espresso machines are so hot they actually make a muddy over-acidic cup of tea

I should probably specify boiling "at sea level". However, there is no reason for a properly adjusted hot-water tap to be above the 96-98 degrees you get from a properly boiling kettle. Apart from anything else, if that's not set right, your calibrations on your milk thermometers (which I hope and expect everyone in the café industry does at least once a day - excuse me while I laugh myself sick) will be essentially valueless.

I actually think the big problem with hot water taps on espresso machines is the fact that the water hammers down onto the tea at such high pressure, which forces too much early extraction, in the same way as trying to brew in a cup does. It can push any over-small leaf fragments out of tea-bags, which might account for some of the muddiness you're experiencing. That and the best you can hope for in most cafés is a tiny little tea-pot with a 400ml capacity, so you might as well be brewing in a mug for all the good it having a lid and spout will do you.

This is a subject I could have a very long and joyful conversation with you about, I'm just not sure it's a conversation anyone else would thank us for having.

I also think every variety of tea has its optimal steeping time, so it is complicated.


As do we all, it's just that we all disagree.
posted by howfar at 11:10 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The argument mentioned earlier started with what kind of tea was a proper tea for a cup, went on to steeping times, and then nearly came to blows with milk vs. cream.

Apparently they do it differently in Manchester versus York.

I was merely sitting in mild terror at a pair of ladies going at it hammer and tongs over the subject.
posted by mephron at 12:25 PM on February 10, 2012


Of course, since I became an anarchist, I've had to make the switch to herbal tea. I take pride in avoiding expropriation in all it forms, and brother Proudhon would never forgive me for disregarding his dictum that all proper tea is theft.
posted by howfar at 12:47 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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