Red Bull venturing into fruity flavors

NEW YORK -- Red Bull is rolling out its energy drink in three fruity flavors this spring, as the company looks to boost its stake in the rapidly growing market.

The Austrian beverage company says it will launch its drink in cranberry, lime and blueberry this March, marking the first time the drink has been offered in flavors.

Red Bull's move comes at a critical time. Energy drinks remain a tiny part of the carbonated soft drinks market, representing just 3 percent of sales volume, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest. But while soda consumption has flagged in recent years, energy drinks are growing by leaps and bounds.

Last year, sales volume for energy drinks rose by nearly 17 percent, with the top three players _ Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar _ all logging double-digit gains, according to Beverage Digest.

But the industry is also facing growing scrutiny. This summer, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued subpoenas to Monster Beverage Corp.; the maker of 5-Hour Energy, Living Essentials LLC; and PepsiCo Inc., which makes AMP energy drinks.

Although the details have not been disclosed, the probe is examining how the drinks are made and marketed. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates for food safety, has noted that energy drinks are often labeled as having additives that provide dubious health benefits.

A representative for Red Bull wasn't immediately available for comment. But in a press release announcing its fruity flavors, the company noted that its drink "improves performance, especially during times of increased stress or strain, increases concentration and improves reaction speed, and stimulates metabolism."

The company said the drinks will be sold in 8.4-ounce cans and four-packs. Red Bull already comes in a sugar-free version and a zero-calorie version, which was introduced earlier this year.

With 30 percent of the market in terms of sales volume, Red Bull is the second- largest player in the market. Monster is No. 1 with 35 percent and Rockstar is No. 3 with 19 percent, according to Beverage Digest. Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo are far smaller players in the arena, with about 5 percent each.