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Energy drink sales slow on health concerns


SEOUL, June 18 (Yonhap) - Sales of energy drinks have slowed down sharply this year due to rising public health concerns over the highly caffeinated beverage, industry data showed Tuesday.

Energy drink sales at 7-Eleven convenience stores rose a mere 1.1 percent in May from a year earlier, compared with a 123 percent on-year surge in January, the chain operator said. Ministop, another convenience store chain, saw its sales of energy drinks fall 2 percent in the first half of this year.

The discount retailer E-Mart Co. said its energy drink sales increased just 7.5 percent over the last five weeks, tumbling from a 97.5 percent rise throughout the first four months of this year. "We don't have plans to bring in new energy drink products for the time being," an E-Mart official said.

The figures signal a downturn for the energy drink market, which enjoyed three-fold growth last year to 100 billion won (US$88.5 million) in combined sales. The stimulant drinks, which are high in sugar and caffeine, have become particularly popular among young consumers over the last few years.

"The energy drink market is losing steam. There is a growing awareness that drinking the high caffeine beverage carries health risks, which has put a damper on its sales," an official at 7-Eleven said.

Once the best-selling drink in most convenience stores, Lotte Chilsung Co.'s energy drink Hot Six dropped out of the top 10 in some chains, the data showed. Red Bull suffered a steeper sales drop despite a 33 percent price cut earlier this year.

Market observers said minimally processed drinks like mineral water and preservative-free juices are likely to lead the growth of the beverage market down the road.

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