Before 'sports drinks' there was Jolt Cola. A super-sugared, high caffeine beverage that was first on the market and claimed the niche but for briefly. Whatever happened to Jolt Cola energy drink? Do you remember Jolt Cola, the first 'power drink' from the mid 1980s? Its marketing slogan was "All the Sugar and Twice the Caffeine.
The First 'Energy Drink' was Jolt Cola, in 1985
Walking home from the bus today I spied a RED BULL ‘energy drink’ can lying discarded upon the ground. It got me wondering; what ever happened to that upstart cola with all the sugar and twice the caffeine? Where is Jolt Cola?
It was in western New York where I lived that I first heard of and tried this new energy drink product. The year was 1985 when Jolt Cola appeared on the market.
Sugar and High-Caffeine Energy Drink "Jolt Cola"
The mid-80s were a time when colas and other soft drinks were heavily into ‘diet’ and ‘low sugar’ diet alternatives which seemed an odd bit of timing to introduce such unhealthful decadence like Jolt. While other soft drinks were cutting back on sugar and caffeine, Jolt provided more.
Everyone knew the warnings about sugar and caffeine, but when was cola ever considered anything other than ‘bad for you?’ The premise was to embrace the bad things this product offered. It was a bold venture and it seemed viable because it was new, different and untried.
These days in the U.S., most soft drinks (including Coca Cola and Pepsi) are sweetened with less expensive corn syrup. A slightly older generation that remembers the flavor when pure cane sugar was used can tell you that there most definitely a notable taste difference, mainly, that the high-fructose corn sweetener leaves an un-savory ‘stickiness’ in the mouth. It makes the drink not as refreshing or as sweet as when pure cane sugar is used.
Coca Cola in Mexico and now in Canada uses pure white cane sugar in many soft drinks and they most definitely have a better taste than the American equivalent. In fairness to Coca Cola, there are some regional sales of their product around the Jewish communities in cities such as Atlanta that release a sugar-sweetened product for their Kosher for Passover communities. This is not widely advertised as the Coca Cola Company probably does not want to incite America as a whole to experience the ‘cane sugar difference’ and demand the costlier product year ‘round.
It is a cost-savings thing to the Coca Cola Company to sweeten their product with less costly corn syrup but some sects of society cannot consume corn and other products (animal products, non-Kosher, etc.) during certain religious periods.
Jolt Cola eventually gave in cost-cutting concerns too and switched to high fructose corn sweeteners. They changed their signature slogan to “All the Flavor and Twice the Caffeine.”
Energy Drink in Disguise: Jolt Power Cola Reclosable Battery Can
In the year 2005 the Jolt Cola manufacturer changed their logo and re-introduced their product in a resealable aluminum bottle that outwardly vaguely resembles a large D-cell battery. The packing invoked an image of ‘energy’ without he lightning bolts. The can itself was resealable and in order to preserve freshness, had a plastic gasket on the lid sort of like the rubber gasket on a thermos bottle.
This wholesale redesign of the product included adding additional flavors such as cherry cola, grape, lemon-lime, orange, passion fruit and other flavors as well as offering their products in returnable bottles in California where it is encouraged to use refillable glass containers for beverages to conserve energy.
Jolt Cola was often featured in films from the 80s and 90s as the energy drink of choice among computer hackers and the up-all-nighters and computer geeks. Empty cans of Jolt have been seen in movies such as Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” and in the 1995 suspense movie “Hackers.”
Jolt Cola was never a threat to the big cola manufacturers Pepsi and Coca Cola as a super-charged cola beverage however. Its redesign as an energy booster beverage didn’t work either as other energy drinks (Red Bull, etc.) had already captured the market and have proved to be more competition than Jolt Cola could handle.
In September of 2009, Jolt Co. Inc. filed for bankruptcy and its assets are being decided and sold-off by the courts to pay its financial obligations. Jolt Cola survived for nearly 25 years and today, it is no more. What will become of the brand is uncertain. Perhaps the brand will be purchased by another company and made their own.
I find myself wanting a sugary, caffeine-laden Jolt Energy Cola right now, -for old-times sake.
Update and The Dangers of Energy Drinks
By 2017, many soda pop companies have been switching to real sugar instead of using high fructose corn syrup. This is due to many complaints from customers about the terrible aftertaste of high fructose corn syrup.
Not only Jolt, but all of the current energy drinks have fallen out of favor due to health concerns. There have been some deaths reported in teens and young adults because of drinking too many of these energy drinks in a day. In 2017, a South Carolina 16 year old died from drinking too much caffeine. He died from drinking a latte, a Mountain Dew and several energy drinks.
The Health Dangers of Energy Drinks
There are many health dangers that are connected with energy drinks and ingesting too much caffeine. These dangers include:
- Cardiac arrest: If a person drinks too many energy drinks, they can suffer cardiac arrest. It is also important to know that many drink energy drinks in addition to drinking coffee and Mountain Dew can lead to a dangerous level of caffeine. This is especially dangerous for those with underlying heart conditions. Between 2009 and 2011, there were more than 4,500 calls to poison centers concerning energy drinks and caffeine overdose, of those calls, 51% involved children.
- Headaches: Energy drinks can cause headaches and an increase in migraines.
- Increased anxiety: Drinking too much caffeine and energy drinks can cause an increase in anxiety, and in some cases can lead to a full-blown panic attack.
- Insomnia: Yes, energy drinks can keep a person awake or keep away those early afternoon sleepiness feelings. But too many energy drinks or drinking them late in the day, can cause insomnia and make it hard to fall asleep, plus also leads to a restless night sleep and waking up tired.
- Addiction: Caffeine is addictive. The more caffeine a person drinks, the more they will need in time to get the same effect. This means you will have to buy more energy drinks to get the same effect.
- Drug interaction: Some energy drinks can interfere and cause an interaction with certain medications. If you take medications, talk to your doctor about this interaction.
- High blood pressure: Energy drinks and too much caffeine can cause your blood to rise, to even dangerously high levels. High blood pressure (hypertension) is not a health condition. And if a person already has high blood pressure, drinking energy drinks is not a good idea.
- Jitters and being nervous: Too many energy drinks and in some people, even one energy drink can cause extreme nervousness and jitters. This also includes increases sweating.
- Niacin overdose: These energy drinks usually contain a large amount of B3 (Niacin) and can cause many over dose symptoms. All multi vitamins contain the proper amount of B3, and if you add in numerous energy drinks throughout the day, you are in danger of getting too much niacin or B3. The symptoms include a flushed hot feeling in your face, itching, rapid heart rate, dizziness and vomiting.
- Stress hormone release: A new study by the Mayo clinic found that certain energy drinks caused an increase in stress levels by 74%.
- Allergic reactions: Due to the different ingredients in energy drinks, some people can have an allergic reaction, with symptoms from itching to the more dangerous airway constriction and trouble breathing.
- Diabetes: Many energy drinks contain a great deal of sugar, which can lead to or make existing diabetes worse.
- Risky behavior: Studies have found that those with increased caffeine levels can lead to more risky and or aggressive behavior.
As you can see, energy drinks come with many dangers. One 5-hour energy drink can help you through the day, but overdoing it is a real health risk. Moderation is the key, and if they make you feel bad, just don’t drink them.