Marketers Shrug Off Proposed Oversight

Citing the increasing popularity of energy drinks and other dietary supplements, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has introduced legislation that could require marketers to register their products with the Food and Drug Administration.

Despite the increased layer of regulation the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act would entail, energy drink manufacturers contacted by BevNET remained sanguine about the measure.

“Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said Andy Schamisso, founder and president of Inko’s, which makes Inko’s White Tea Energy. Shaiamisso said the extra paperwork — marketers would  be required to provide a list of ingredients and a copy of the label to the FDA — might lead to more honest companies.

Still, it’s a touchy subject, and some of the biggest companies are sitting out the discussion for now. Both 5 Hour Energy and Monster Energy, for example, turned down requests for comment.

Up to now, dietary supplements have been relatively oversight free, with the requirements for manufacturers largely entailing that they make sure that their products adhere to Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) guidelines. Having to register those ingredients and formulas might be considered a more onerous step, and larger companies can feel that’s a bit too close to forcing them to reveal their own “secret sauce” — or lack of same.

Nevertheless, Victor Diaz, president and founder of Cellutions, which produces MODJO Natural Energy Supplement, says that he thinks it’s great news.

Diaz says that the law will essentially change who checks the safety of the beverages, and brands that are already FDA compliant would have nothing to worry about.

“The people that were serious about the business — it allows them to compete more fairly, and the people who are in it for a quick buck will have one more reason to be weeded out,” Diaz said.

For those who relied on misleading packaging and a lack of oversight, the grace period would be over, and that it would make the dietary supplement business more legitimate to the public.

“There have been and probably still are a lot of manufacturers who don’t adhere to FDA guidelines,” Diaz said. “It’s given the industry a black eye.”

At fast-growing soccer-themed energy drink Golazo, the legislation isn’t intimidating, either, said Todd Olsen, the company’s head of product development. Olsen said that customers, not just lawmakers, are interested in more transparency and more oversight.

“All the problems with this industry are self inflicted,” he said. “It’s the next generation of brands and consumers that are going to pull us out of this in a way that’s much more sustainable for the future.”

Olsen said that while the change wouldn’t affect Golazo, there would be a lot of difficult decisions for other manufacturers about whether they’ll have to reformulate. These companies had been flying under the radar because the FDA wasn’t regulating them, he charged.

“The point that Senator Durbin is making is that it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of involvement from the FDA,” said Olsen. “A lot of people are just using it as a carte blanche.”