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The Calorie-Burning Craze

Soft drinks that help you lose weight? The newest beverages on the market claim to do just that.

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Are you counting calories and watching your waistline? Even if you're one of the lucky few who doesn't have to, chances are good you know someone who does. That's because recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that more than 66 million Americans are obese--that's 32 percent of U.S. adults age 20 or older. And the news is just as bad for younger people, too: Obesity in children and teens has tripled since 1980, and more than 12.5 million young people between the ages of 2 and 19 are considered overweight.

These alarming numbers are creating a growing public concern about obesity and health, which has spurred the innovation of a new category of beverage: calorie-burning soft drinks. And this new class of beverage is pulling consumers from both the energy drink market and the carbonated soft drink market as Americans look for a healthier alternative to their daily dose of energy.

Calorie-Burning Beverages Find a Niche

The newest players on the beverage scene not only claim to help you avoid gaining weight, but also to help you lose those extra pounds. And these soft-drink contenders say they have the science to back up their calorie-burning claims: Celsius, produced by Elite FX, and Enviga, produced by Beverage Partners Worldwide (a joint venture between Nestlé and Coca-Cola), both cite proof from independent studies that show these drinks speed up your metabolism and help burn calories. Enviga claims that drinking three cans will burn an average of 60 to 100 calories, while Celsius says its research demonstrates consuming one bottle can burn as much as 77 calories.

For overweight Americans nationwide, this is good news. And it's not just the benefits that are good: The ingredients in these drinks are also appealing. Celsius, for instance, includes such ingredients as green tea extracts, ginger, vitamins, calcium, chromium and, of course, caffeine, but doesn't include any chemical preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, carbohydrates or sugar-ingredients common in most high-calorie sodas.

So far, Celsius is the only negative-calorie drink actually available for purchase. But that won't be the case for long--Enviga has plans to launch this month in the Northeast and nationwide in January.

And the big guns aren't far behind. Not wanting to miss out on this growing trend, PepsiCo Inc. recently announced that they're developing their own fruit-based, vitamin-enriched, calorie-burning beverage, Tava, to be released sometime next year.

And there's a strong chance other calorie-burning drinks will follow in their footsteps: "I suspect over the next year you're going to see three or four more [calorie-burning beverages] come in," predicts Steve Haley, CEO of Elite FX, "and probably the following year, you're going to see, just like the energy drinks did, it's going to start taking off."

Unlike energy drinks, however, calorie-burning soft drinks are using a different marketing approach. This new class of beverages is shying away from the more controversial, in-your-face advertising techniques common to many energy drinks, which are aimed at younger, mostly male consumers. Instead, they're focusing on promoting themselves to their target markets as a healthier alternative to both sodas and the increasingly popular energy drinks.

Thanks to the weight-loss claim, their target markets are increasingly female-dominated. While twentysomething males may look to an energy drink like Monster for a fast energy boost when playing basketball, marketers hope women in their 30s and 40s will be drawn to a product like Celsius or Enviga, which promises an extended energy kick in addition to weight-loss.

"Superwomen" is what Haley calls Celsius's largest group of consumers. "[They're] multi-tasking women, trying to manage a job, probably, or the home front, a relationship, maybe kids," he says. "They're time- and sleep-deprived. They want to be healthier, they want to go to the gym more, they want to do more, but they're just so time-deprived, they need an extra boost."

That extra boost seems to be helping Celsius make market inroads--and win awards. Beverage Industry magazine named Celsius its Best New Product for 2005, and CSP magazine selected it as a 2006 Best New Product Retailers Choice Finalist. And while the private company won't disclose sales, Haley says it's growing exponentially--they plan to release two new flavors of Celsius by next summer and currently have three new beverages in the works.

While research shows that the calorie-burning category--and its energy drink parent--should continue to dominate the beverage industry, the true proof will be the test of time: Will consumers just "road test" the new calorie-burning beverages but revert to their more familiar, less-healthy favorites? Or will they embrace this new trend and increasingly turn to these drinks as a part of their diet plan? Though negative-calorie drinks alone won't end the growing problem of obesity in the U.S., they're at least a step in the right direction.

Kristin Edelhauser

Written By

As's staff writer, Kristin Edelhauser writer features, blogs and other pieces for the site. She previously worked as a writer and researcher for the NBC San Diego affiliate.