Monster Energy is an energy drink produced by the Monster Beverage Corporation. First introduced in 2002, the energy drink is extremely popular as it holds 39% market share of the energy drink market – second only to the 43% position held by Red Bull (1). As an energy drink, Monster Energy contains a long list of ingredients that could potentially worry a vegan diet.
The ingredients list of Monster Energy does not contain any obvious animal product or by-products and is considered vegan. However, there are some ingredients that could be problematic. These ingredients include sucrose, natural flavors, and sucralose.
Monster Energy contains no obvious animal products or by-products and is considered vegan. However, the energy drink contains some ingredients that are problematic like sucrose and natural flavors. The issue being manufacturing processes and vague definitions supplied by the FDA.
Monster Energy contains sucralose – an artificial sweetener that has been documented to have been evaluated through animal testing. Since sucralose is not made of any animal derivatives, it can be considered dietarily vegan. However, its association with animal testing means that sucralose and products containing sucralose are not free from animal cruelty. Thus, Monster cannot be considered ethically vegan.
The list of ingredients of Monster Energy includes: carbonated water, sucrose, glucose, citric acid, natural flavors, taurine, sodium citrate, color added, Panax ginseng root extract, L-carnitine, L-tartrate, caffeine, sorbic acid, benzoic acid, niacinamide, sodium chloride, Glycine max glucuronolactone, inositol, guarana seed extract, pyridoxine hydrochloride, sucralose, riboflavin, maltodextrin, and cyanocobalamin.
It should be noted that the ingredients listed above are for the original Monster Energy flavor. Currently, the beverage comes in a wide array of different flavors such as Monster Energy Lo-Carb, Monster Energy Absolutely Zero, Monster Energy Assault, Monster Energy Import, Monster Energy Import Light, Monster Energy Gronk, Monster Energy Zero Ultra, and many more.
While different flavors might slightly vary in terms of ingredients, this article will focus on the original Monster Energy.
While listed as sucrose, the ingredient is essentially sugar. While sugar is conventionally obtained from a plant source (sugar cane; Saccharum spp.), it is considered a gray area ingredient because of how it is produced by some manufacturers.
In order to make sugar more appealing to a wider market demographic, many sugar companies refine and process the sugar to make them fine and white. One process used in the refinement is a filtration step. Different companies use different filtration agents such as granulated carbon, but some companies use bone char – the ground and charred bones of different animals.
Since bone char is an animal product, sugar produced using it cannot be considered vegan. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine whether a sugar company uses this manufacturing step as such information is rarely found on the label.
Natural flavors are a common ingredient found in many products, including Monster Energy. However, many vegans tend to avoid products containing this ingredient because of its loose definition. According to the FDA:
“The essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional (2).”
Because of how the FDA defines natural flavors, the ingredient could be either vegan or non-vegan. Given its ambiguity, vegans tend to stay on the safe side by avoiding products with natural flavors altogether.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener and a common ingredient found in sugar-free products. It is also commonly used in "low-calorie" products since it does not accumulate in the body and is quickly expelled in the urine.
As an artificial sweetener, sucralose is completely synthesized by chlorinating sucrose. Thus, the process to create sucralose does not involve the use of any animal products or derivatives.
However, the ingredient is problematic in the vegan community due to the animal testing studies associated with it. Evaluating its safety for general consumption, sucralose has been tested on a wide variety of animals such as rats, mice, dogs, and monkeys (3).
Using animal models in safety studies is considered by many to be an unethical practice that is no longer necessary. Technological advancements have developed other methods that can sufficiently replace the use of animal studies with in vitro assays (i.e., the use of cell models) and in silico studies (i.e., the use of computer modeling and algorithms).
While Monster Energy can be considered vegan, some health concerns have been associated with this energy drink. There are two ingredients in Monster Energy that are of particular concern: sugar and caffeine.
A common ingredient in energy drinks, sugar is found in large quantities in a can of Monster Energy. According to the USDA FoodData database (4), one 240-mL can contains an alarming 28.1 grams of sugar. For reference, the American Heart Association recommends that people should limit their daily sugar intake to 24-36 grams (5).
Many health associations have repeatedly recommended people to reduce their sugar intake as it has been heavily associated with severe health consequences such as obesity and heart diseases.
There are a few ingredients in Monster Energy that add to its sugar content such as sucrose, glucose, sucralose, and maltodextrin.
Caffeine is also a common ingredient in energy drinks due to its specific effect on the nervous system; Caffeine is one of the ingredients responsible for enhancing mental alertness.
According to the same database, one 240-mL can contains 84.8 milligrams of caffeine. While the safe limit for caffeine has been found to be around 400 milligrams a day (6), this limit is easily exceeded with other caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee, tea, and soda.
Common effects associated with consuming too much caffeine are palpitations, insomnia, rapid heart beat, and high blood pressure(7).
Note: It's entirely up to the consumer to track his/her own consumption to avoid possible adverse effects.