After a long day of studying, writing and staring at a computer, SMU senior Kristin Najarian didn’t turn to a Red Bull or Gatorade.
She instead reached for a 12-ounce beverage, in an aluminum can that bears a sunset beyond an ocean. As she sipped VIB: Vacation in a Bottle, she became a little more at ease.
“I thought I would try it as a way to wind down and relax before going to bed,” she said. “I definitely felt somewhat calmer after drinking it.”
Najarian isn’t the only one to go to a beverage to ease the stress. “Supermarket guru” Phil Lempert believes the non-alcoholic Drink Stress Away will be an even bigger trend in 2010.
“Brands are coming out with ‘relaxation’ beverages with herbs and other ingredients designed to actually relax or put you to sleep,” Lempert said in an article on supermarketguru.com. These “may well be the replacements for Vitamin Water and Gatorade.”
A Whole Foods employee, who asked not to remain anonymous, is another new believer in pursuing beverages to relax him, instead of those to provide energy for his day. However, he and others choose a different route: through teas and herbal supplements.
“I think people are just now becoming more open to herb products,” he said, where as in the past, it was more of a “hippie thing.”
Even on Facebook, he can see the many advertisements on the sidebar of his homepage. One advertises the effect of drinking VIB. Every so often, you’ll see the picture of a bright purple can on a sidebar, advertising Drank, another relaxation beverage. Both products, along with others, have hit the fridge in 7-11 Market.
However, people aren’t just gulping down the many ounces of fluid to relax. Near the 5 Hour Energy shots in those small red bottles, sits similar 2-ounce containers dressed in blue that reads “iChill.”
“The world’s first relaxation shot,” was introduced in August 2009, and it is designed to help “relax, reduce stress, [and] sleep better,” reads the plastic wrapped bottle.
The Food and Drug Administration has not yet tested this product, and others with the similar aim, for their effectiveness. The last time Najarian tried VIB, she wasn’t “sure how much of [the effects] had to do with just being so overly tired.” So as of now, it is unknown if what actually keeps these products in stores is a psychological effect or not. Either way, the market is slowly adding more products.
Dr. Raj Sethuraman, professor and chair of marketing at the Edwin L. Cox School of Business at SMU, believes that those who went into this industry made a wise business choice. As he explained, there have been many methods for relaxation for hundreds of years, such as yoga and massage.
“Every company or innovator wants to find a niche to fill quickly before anyone else can get in,” he said. And for creators of drinks like VIB and Drank, their niche was a non-alcoholic beverage to help relax consumers.
Dr. Sutheraman believes that right now, “it’s a good idea, but they need to market better,” for he had not heard of the specific brand of Drank.
The purple-canned beverage, Drank, combines Rose Hips, Melatonin and Valerian Root: ingredients that are common in these kinds of beverages. These “have the ability to relax your body, mind and soul,” reads the can. Also on the back of the can reads a warning that more than two servings are not recommended within a 24-hour period.
The can itself contains two servings, totaling at 220 calories. So for those who do pick up this drink to relax before bedtime, they are consuming nearly half their dinner’s calories.
SMU junior Kassandra Schmitt feels the idea of a drink like this shows a lot about the current society.
“It just goes to show that people have such hectic lives and are so busy 24/7 that they need to rely on drinks to put them to sleep,” she said.
However, Dr. Austin Baldwin, assistant professor of psychology at SMU, disagrees that society is in great need for a product like this.
“I’m skeptical that people’s need to relax and reduce stress is currently being unmet and [that] these drinks are filling that void,” he said. “It strikes me as marketing driving the need rather than the other way around.”
However, as Dr. Sethuraman said, the market opportunity is too high to pass. Chief executive officer of Innovative Beverage Groups Peter Bianchi told NPR that his product is a lifestyle beverage. He explained further on how it’s aiming for a positive alternative to the energy drinks.
While Bianchi says valerian and melatonin balance your REM sleep, consumers should not expect to feel drastic effects.
“It’s not going to stop you from running a race. But what it’s doing, is when you have a chance to sit down and relax, reflect in a nice calm environment,” he said.
As with energy drinks, the effects can differ from person-to-person. Najarian doesn’t risk the chance with products like VIB.
“I call VIB the ‘anti-red bull’ and would only drink it if I wanted to take a nap or have some serious relaxing time on the couch,” she said.
A small section near the energy drinks is filled with these relaxation drinks. Lempert wonders what will happen next. The possibility of eating a relaxation bar may not be too far in the future. For now, Najarian and others may continue to drink up to wind down.