Some energy drinks still contain between 14 and 17 teaspoons of sugar

Energy drinks manufacturers have reduced sugar content in energy drinks in response to the Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax.

However a new survey by safefood has revealed that there has been an increase in the proportion of drinks being sold in bigger serving sizes.

The survey found that the average sugar content per serving of energy drinks has fallen by approximately two level teaspoons of sugar (from 31g in 2015 to 23g in 2019).

The snapshot survey identified an increase in the number of energy drink products for sale (from 39 to 42) with a large increase in drinks sold in 500ml servings (8 in 2015 v 16 in 2019) and no change in the number of drinks sold in 250ml servings.

The survey revealed that before the introduction of the sugar tax, 74% of energy drinks in the Irish market would have been eligible for taxation (i.e. containing at least 5g of sugar per 100ml).

The 2019 survey data shows that only 41% are now eligible for taxation.

The latest market research shows that between 2015 and 2018, there was a 3.4% increase in the volume of energy drinks sold in off-trade (i.e. supermarkets, convenience stores and discounters) in Ireland and this now totals 26.7m litres, the equivalent of every man, woman and child drinking 5.5 litres of energy drinks every year.

Added caffeine

Dr Marian O’Reilly, Chief Specialist in Nutrition, safefood continued; “Regular energy drinks are basically sugary drinks with added caffeine and we know that sugary drinks are linked with poor dental health and excess weight. It’s a concern that they are cheap, readily available, in large containers and are marketed in a way that is appealing to young people. It is encouraging to see the fall in the average sugar content of these products.

“However, this is in contrast to caffeine contents appearing to have increased, with one serving of an energy drink contributing more caffeine than a standard espresso. These drinks are not suitable for children and we would encourage those aged over 16 to consider energy drinks as an occasional drink due to the often-high sugar and caffeine content.”

The report “A survey of energy drinks on the island of Ireland – 2019” is available to download from safefood website (