Prime drinks: What’s the cause for concern?

These drinks are flying off the shelves, but parents should keep an eye on them. <i>Photo: TND/Getty</i>

These drinks are flying off the shelves, but parents should keep an eye on them. Photo: TND/Getty

In their constant search for the next new thing, kids are abandoning stock-standard energy and hydration drinks for a much-hyped range released by internet celebrities.

Prime drinks are all the rage, following the January 2022 launch of the brand by YouTubers and boxers Logan Paul and KSI (real name Olajide Olatunji).

Paul and Olatunji  have a combined 47.7 million-strong YouTube following and drew millions of viewers during their time as boxing rivals, but their success since joining as business partners to launch Prime took the world by surprise.

The 2023 launch of the brand in Australia while Paul and Olatunji toured the country sparked a frenzy at shops.

Coles struggled to keep the drinks on shelves, and Woolworths introduced a purchase limit of five bottles per transaction.

Australian supermarkets priced Prime Hydration at up to $5 per bottle, but like many products with celebrity backing desperate fans turned to eBay and Facebook Marketplace, even empty bottles sold for up to $30 a pop.

Both platforms are currently flooded with listings for unopened Prime drinks selling at inflated prices.

So what are these drinks, why are experts concerned and schools banning them?

What are Prime drinks?

There are two Prime drinks on offer internationally – Hydration, and Energy.

Both variants come in multiple flavours from lemon-lime to tropical punch, with ‘zero added sugar’ credentials.

At first glance, Prime Hydration drinks seem pretty harmless; they contain 10 per cent coconut water, are low calorie, and have added branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), which are promoted as a source of muscle energy.

Prime Energy drinks are another matter; they’re advertised for ages 18 and over, and each can contains 200ml of caffeine.

This means Prime Energy drinks are not legally allowed to be sold in Australia thanks to strict energy drink regulations under Food Standards Australia New Zealand, which require energy drinks to contain no more than 32mg of caffeine per 100ml.

The 200ml of caffeine found in 350ml Prime Energy cans is roughly double the Australian legal limit at 57mg of caffeine per 100ml.

Why are the drinks sparking concerns?

You’d think Australian kids would be safe from Prime Energy drinks given they can’t be sold legally in the country.

But the drinks can still be found for sale on eBay, Facebook Marketplace and elsewhere online, and even some legitimate retailers have admitted to selling the energy drinks.

Illegal Prime Energy drinks can be found on social media marketplaces. Photo: TND

This has schools and health experts sounding the alarm, given the drink’s extremely high caffeine content.

The Prime website offers a warning in the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section, which states Prime Energy is not recommended for children under 18, women who are pregnant or nursing, or people who are sensitive to caffeine.

Even in low doses, caffeine can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and dehydration.

Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, vomiting, exacerbated psychiatric disease and perhaps most concerning, tachycardia (rapid heart rate).

A 2016 University of Adelaide study found a direct link between energy drink consumption and hospital admissions for adverse heart reactions.

Of the surveyed patients aged 13 to 40 attending an emergency department in South Australia with heart palpitations, 36 per cent had consumed at least one energy drink in the 24 hours before presenting at the hospital.

Patients who were big energy drink consumers had more frequent heart palpitations than those who consumed less than one per day.

Schools, including Queensland’s Maryborough State High School, have issued warnings emphasising their bans on energy drinks, but the Prime Hydration drink also appears to have cause for concern.

“We had a student who had just the sports drink, not the energy drink, and this is a child who’s quite shy, retiring and quiet normally, and it was like someone had shaken him up and made him fizzy,” Simon Done, Maryborough State High School principal, told the ABC.

“He was physiologically different looking – that’s coming out anecdotally from one of my staff in the school.”

Prime Hydration contains no caffeine, but it lists BCAA as a key ingredient.

Although there is some evidence supporting the claims that BCAA supplements could be of limited benefit to skeletal muscle protein metabolism, BCAA supplements have not been tested on children under 18 or on human foetal growth, so there is no guarantee of their safety for children or pregnant women.

Why are Prime drinks so popular?

When promoting Prime drinks in Australia this year, Paul told a radio show the company had cleared $US250 million ($374 million) in retail sales within its first year of operation, and $US45 million ($67 million) in January this year alone.

Paul said he and Olatunji had made the most of their social media presence to keep their products front of mind for their tens of millions of followers.

“We definitely cracked the code. We hit a few really important things that are a staple marketing ploy of this generation,” he said.

Logan Paul and KSI promoting Prime Hydration at WrestleMania this month. Photo: Getty

The business partners, who are well versed in internet popularity after years in the game, have kept on top of audience engagement to help spark interest in the drinks.

Both have made videos answering viewer questions and comments, included some about Prime drinks, and reached a potentially wider audience by inviting other popular YouTubers to try their products.

Who are Logan Paul and Olajide Olatunji?

Paul got his start as a social media personality by posting sketches on now-defunct video-sharing application, Vine, in the early 2010s.

He then reached greater heights on YouTube with attention-grabbing stunts and jokes, before being ‘cancelled’ in 2018 after posting a YouTube vlog of his visit to a Japanese ‘suicide forest’ – in which he reportedly showed the body of a deceased person.

The YouTuber apologised and took a short break from the platform, before setting about a redemption arc that included addressing the controversial video and starting a boxing career.

Logan Paul and KSI backstage at WrestleMania. Photo: Getty

Olatunji found fame in 2009 when he started posting YouTube videos commenting on FIFA video games, then later as a member of YouTube collective, The Sidemen.

Although he has sparked controversies involving racial and transgender slurs, he has apologised and has now found success as a rapper and boxer.

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