They carry slogans such as "Unleash the beast", "Bigger, better, faster, stronger", "No half measures" and "Have you got what it takes?" They have names such as Mad Dog, Relentless, AMP and Monster. No extreme-sport event or edgy rock festival is complete without their sponsorship and, according to a recent report by Mintel, almost three-quarters of 16- to 24-year-olds rely on them to keep them going. Currently, the energy-drinks market is worth more than £1bn in the UK alone.
It is a sector that has come a long way since 1927, when the chemist William Owen concocted the glucose-heavy drink that would become known as Lucozade. Intended to ease patients over illness – hence its slogan, "Aids recovery" – it was not until the 1980s, and the emergence of an upstart competitor, that Lucozade distanced itself from sickness in general and, it might be suggested, Aids in particular, rebranding itself as the drink that "Replaces lost energy".
That upstart competitor was Red Bull, the fizzy concoction of caffeine, taurine and sugar that has captured almost 50 per cent of the energy-drink market and has made its founder, the Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz, one of the richest people in the world. No wonder the shelves are now full of similarly garishly coloured cans, taller and slimmer than the conventional soft-drink containers, as if to say: "You are a tall, thin, thrusting young person about town. You love extreme sports and edgy rock festivals. Here, buy this drink that will have the same effect on your central nervous system as a strong cup of coffee with seven lumps of sugar. Better still, why not add a shot or three of vodka?"
A couple of weeks ago, the court at the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor heard testimony from a nurse named Cherilyn Lee, who was called to the singer's LA mansion to treat Jackson for a variety of sleep disorders. "He loved to drink Red Bull," Lee told jurors. "He was drinking so many highly caffeinated sodas..." Lee prescribed herbal tea. A lovely idea, though one, of course, that won't give you wings.