BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Examines Advertising for Living Essentials’ ‘5 Hour Energy Shot,’ Following Challenge by ‘Monster’ Maker Hansen

New York, New York – August 20, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has determined that Living Essentials, the maker of the 5 Hour Energy dietary supplement beverage, provided a reasonable  basis for claims related to the sugar content of  competing energy drink products, but recommended that the advertiser make certain modification to more clearly disclose the basis of its comparison.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined print, Internet and broadcast advertising claims made for 5 Hour Energy following a challenge by Hansen Beverage Company, the manufacturer of competing energy beverage products, Monster Energy drinks. Claims at issue in NAD’s inquiry included:

 “…5 Hour Energy® contains zero sugar and only 4 calories.” 

“Over 12 teaspoons of sugar and 200 calories in these [Hansen’s Monster] energy drinks.” 

The advertising at issue features an individual tipping spoonfuls of white, granulated sugar into 16-ounce Monster Energy can while the voiceover that states: “How much sugar is in these energy drinks?  Let’s find out.  While waiting, you should know 5-Hour Energy contains zero sugar and only 4 calories.  Its blend of B vitamins and amino acids can help you feel awake, alert and productive for hours without the crash or jitters. The answer is 12. Over 12 teaspoons of sugar and 200 calories in these energy drinks. Zero sugar and 4 calories in 5-Hour Energy.  Hours of energy now, no crash later.”

The challenger maintained that the advertising was an inaccurate apples-to-oranges comparison between a one-serving 5 Hour Energy “shot” and a two-serving size can of Monster Energy drink. The challenger noted, as well, that its products contain liquid sucrose, rather than granulated sugar.

The advertiser maintained that its advertising accurately pointed out a significant difference – sugar content – between 5 Hour Energy and the depicted “energy drinks.”

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that despite the difference in the size of the cans, both products were packaged for consumption at a single sitting.

Further, NAD determined that the advertiser’s comparison between its one-serving shot product and the two-serving cans of “energy drinks,” was relevant to consumers for the purpose of showing the relative amounts of sugar in the products.

NAD noted that there was no evidence in the record that consumers view granulated sugar as better or worse for them than the liquid sucrose in Monster Energy drinks and was not, therefore, troubled by the depiction of granulated sugar in the commercials.

NAD noted that the evidence indicated that the 16 ounce cans of energy drinks being shown in the advertising were likely to be consumed as a single serving, but recommended that the advertiser make the basis of the comparison more clear.

To avoid conveying an inaccurate line claim, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its advertising to have each can face front so that the name is clearly visible.

In its advertiser’s statement, Living Essentials noted that it “supports the decision reached and, to the extent recommendations therein affect Living Essential’s advertising, will follow those recommendations.”