Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Monster blog. (Blogger was bunged up last night.)

One of the small benefits of passing through Union Station every day is occasional free samples, whether I can use them or not. (A friend of mine calls these items “smallgess,” since they don’t constitute largess.)

The other day I got me a big shiny black can of Monster, an “energy” drink. I’m happy to report that I was ahead of the curve when it comes to energy drinks, sampling a few back in the early ‘90s in Japan, where they are enormously popular. Many varieties exist there, most available from vending machines. I liked DekaVita best: essentially carbonated grape juice jazzed up with caffeine and vitamins, but a bargain on a hot day at Y100 (later, Y110). Ten different vitae, I think, hence the name.

Digression. Why does that perennial human-interest, golly-the-Japanese-are-funny story about vending machines in Japan always make the absurd claim that everything is sold in vending machines there? Look hard enough and you will find oddities (to us) in Japanese vending machines — clean panties and dirty manga seem to be the most often mentioned. But I’d guess that 99%+ of the machines contain pedestrian items like drinks and cigarettes. But not, oddly, candy. I only saw that in one or two machines in four years, all in movie theaters.

I’m a fan of product labels, and Monster gave me quite a lot to read. In a silver and blue typeface that’s supposed to be goth or somesuch: “Tear into a can of the meanest energy supplement on the planet, Lo-Carb MONSTER energy.™

“We went down to the lab and performed major surgery on the Monster. We hacked out the carbohydrates and calories, transplanted the wicked Buzz and dialed in the flavor.”

Ah, to be a copywriter. They must have had fun with this one. Close inspection reveals that in fact Monster has a slight load of calories, all of 10 per serving in a two-serving can. Calories of course are a measure of energy, so that means this is an energy drink with almost no energy. That’s scientifically speaking, however, which is about as relevant to marketing as Linear B.

So Monster is essentially water (first ingredient), with vitamins, ginseng, and other fashionable additives. But what Monster really has, in clear abundance, is caffeine. The fine print toward the bottom: “Consume responsibly. Limit (3) cans per day. Not recommended for children, pregnant women or people sensitive to caffeine.”


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