Energy drinks have reduced their sugar content by two teaspoons per serving since the introduction of taxation aimed at improving health.
The tax on sugar-sweetened drinks came into force in the Republic of Ireland in May 2018.
A new survey by Safefood found that the average sugar content per serving of energy drinks has fallen by approximately two teaspoons (from 31g in 2015 to 23g in 2019).
Of the three leading energy drink brands, which have a combined market share of 80%, there was a reduction in the sugar content of the market leader – but no reduction in the content of the other two leading brands.
The survey found that before the introduction of the sugar tax, 74% of energy drinks in the markets across the island of Ireland were eligible for taxation (ie: containing at least 5g of sugar per 100ml), and now only 41% are now eligible for taxation.
It found an increase in the number of energy drink products for sale (from 39 to 42), with a large increase in drinks sold in 500ml servings (eight in 2015 versus 16 in 2019).
Dr Marian O’Reilly, chief specialist in nutrition with Safefood, said regular energy drinks are sugary drinks with added caffeine.
She added: “We know that sugary drinks are linked with poor dental health and excess weight.
“It’s a concern that they are cheap, readily available, in large containers and are marketed in a way that is appealing to young people.”
Ms O’Reilly said one of the energy drinks on sale had as much caffeine as a standard espresso coffee.
She added: “These drinks are not suitable for children and we would encourage those aged over 16 to consider energy drinks as an occasional drink due to the often-high sugar and caffeine content.”