I'm going to tell you a tragic story and you tell me the headline.
A 21-year-old died last year, collapsing on a British nightclub's dance floor. There are a few things to consider in her untimely demise.
- She had consumed roughly four cans of Red Bull.
- She also drank a few VKs, a caffeine-spiked Vodka beverage (VK stands for Vodka Kick).
- The only drug found in her system was a prescribed anti-epilepsy medication, to treat seizures she had in her youth.
- Her heart was also abnormally large and doctors believed she may have suffered from QT Syndrome, a malady that affects the heart's electric activity.
And where do you think the media's going with this unfortunate case? You can just see it coming, can't you?
"Red Bull may have triggered heart condition that killed student," reads the headline on Telegraph.co.uk yesterday.
Now, consuming massive quantities of caffeine is probably never a healthy decision, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition. Theatergoers may have laughed it up with Jim Carrey's Red Bull overindulgence in Yes Man, but his binge was hardly a serving suggestion.
A young woman's death is an obvious tragedy. It is not something to belittle. However, the media jumping on Red Bull as a potential death-dealing potable is something that I find difficult to ignore.
The makers of Red Bull are not publicly traded, but the same can't be said for other energy drink specialists like Hansen Natural's
Stimulant energy drinks make up a small slice of the revenue mix for all of these companies, save for Hansen. As Red Bull's nearest rival, Monster is the fizzy lifeblood of Hansen. Monster's presence is so powerful in retail that even rival beverage makers Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch have distribution plans in place.
A finger-pointing headline or two isn't going to sink the energy drink market, but the sensationalism of linking human tragedies to an adrenaline-propping beverage is too easy for the media to ignore.
You see it happen all the time. TASER International's
This doesn't mean that investors should shy away from magnetic brands -- frankly, I'm drawn to them. Not only can media exaggerate a situation for the sake of readers, but it's also a testament to the brand's success that something going wrong is suddenly newsworthy.
As long as the incidents aren't a serious trend, buying "dangerous" brands can be a healthy investing strategy.
Other dangerously refreshing sips:
PepsiCo is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. TASER International is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz actually prefers Monster to Red Bull. He does own shares in Jones Soda. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.