Red Bull GmbH

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Red Bull GmbH

Brunn 115
A-5330 Fuschl am See
Telephone: (+43) 662 65 82-0
Fax: (+43) 662 65 82-31
Web site:

Private Company
Incorporated: 1984 as Red Bull GmbH
Employees: 1500
Sales: EUR 1.15 billion ($1.32 billion) (2002)
NAIC: 312111 Soft Drink Manufacturing

Red Bull GmbH produces the world's leading energy drink. More than a billion cans a year are sold in nearly 100 countries. Red Bull holds a 70 percent share of the world market for energy drinks, or functional beverages, a category it was largely responsible for building. Its dominant position in the fastestgrowing segment of the soft drink market in a number of countries has drawn a number of imitators. Red Bull has become a case study in successful guerilla marketing in the United States and United Kingdom. Marketing is aimed at hip young people with active lifestyles, though the formula began as a popular tonic for blue collar workers in Thailand.

Globetrotting Origins

Dietrich Mateschitz was born in 1946, a native of the Styria (Steiermark) region of Austria. As a student in Vienna, he studied world trade and commerce. After graduating, he worked for Unilever, then Blendax, a German manufacturer of toothpaste. This position involved much global travel.

In 1982, Mateschitz visited Thailand and brought home with him a number of energy drinks he sampled there. According to The Economist, Mateschitz was sold on a product called Krating Daeng after it took away his jet lag. He later claimed to consume up to eight of the drinks a day.

Krating Daeng, which is Thai for "Red Bull," was a drink popular among cab drivers and other blue collar workers. It had been produced since the early 1970s by the T.C. Pharmaceutical Co., founded in Thailand in 1962 by Chaleo Yoovidhya, a Blendax licensee. (T.C. Pharmaceutical eventually formed the subsidiary Red Bull Beverage Co. Ltd.)

Mateschitz founded Red Bull GmbH in Austria in 1984 as a 49 percent partner with Chaleo Yoovidhya and his son. The company began marketing its namesake drink in Austria in 1987; a million cans were sold in the year.

The original formula was altered for Western palates. Some ingredients were dropped and carbonation was added. Components of the legendary elixir included B vitamins, glucuronolactone, sodium, and caffeine. One ingredient, the amino acid taurine, was derived synthetically, not from bull testicles, as rumor had it. Red Bull's selling proposition was that it increased stamina and mental concentration, making it a natural for one of the original target users, long-distance drivers. The taste of the thick yellow beverage, said to be akin to liquid gummi bears, lent added distinction to the brand.

International Expansion in the 1990s

Red Bull's distribution expanded into neighboring countries Hungary and Slovenia in 1992. Red Bull was introduced in Germany in March 1994. By June, it was claiming a quarter of the sports drink market there, reported the Associated Press, putting it ahead of Gatorade. It was priced about three times as much as a can of Coca-Cola. Red Bull was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1994 and marketed there as Red Bull Stimulation after 1996.

Red Bull entered the United States in 1997, focusing at first on four western states: California, Oregon, Texas, and Colorado. It was marketed to Americans as a non-corporate alternative to Coke and Pepsi, and both packaging and pricing helped set it apart. The drink was sold in unique, narrow 8.3-ounce cans for $2 a pop.

Red Bull associated itself with the nascent extreme sports movement. The company sponsored snowboarding and freeskiing contests and Flugtag, a homemade flying machine challenge (Mateschitz was an enthusiastic collector of vintage aircraft).

While Red Bull had appealed to athletes and, in the United States, tired white collar workers, the real story of Red Bull's growth lay in the promise of further endurance at clubbing, giving it a special appeal for young people exhausted from working hard all week. The Los Angeles Times reported that the beverage appeared to glow green under the fluorescent light of nightclubs. The drink became a very popular mixer, especially with vodka. Red Bull deepened its involvement with the club scene by sponsoring a month-long school for deejays in New York City called the Red Bull Music Academy.

Worldwide sales were logged at 300 million cans in 1998 by Beverage World. By the end of 1999, Red Bull was sold in more than 50 countries, and sales estimates varied between 600 million and one billion cans worldwide. Red Bull led the energy drink category in the United States and the United Kingdom, where it displaced the venerable Lucozade brand owned by pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham (later Glaxo-SmithKline).

The company promoted the lift the beverage offered with the slogan "Red Bull gives you wings." Traditional advertising was limited, as the company focused heavily on getting product samples into the right hands. The company sometimes put up edgy, graffiti-style billboards. In the late 1990s, Red Bull produced animated TV ads for mature markets.

By this time, Red Bull GmbH was the most highly valued company in Austria, worth about $11 billion according to one estimate. This made Mateschitz, with his 49 percent holding, the country's richest individual.

Continued Success in the 2000s

Mammoth beverage marketers such as Coca-Cola Co. and Anheuser-Busch were pouring out new drinks designed to capture a share of the success of "cult" energy drinks, a $300 million market. PepsiCo acquired South Beach Beverages, maker of the SoBe brand, in 2000, and Quaker Oats, owner of Gatorade, the next year. Liquor distributors were also eyeing Red Bull's share of the mixer market, introducing pre-mixed premium drinks such as Smirnoff Ice. Former Red Bull employees launched a competitor, Roaring Lion, in 2001, its marketing and distribution tailored for the nightclub market.

Red Bull sued a number of bars for surreptitiously substituting knock-offs when customers ordered mixed drinks specifying Red Bull. Red Bull's Australian distributor rolled out its own competing beverage called LiveWire. A court later found Sydneywide Distributors copied Red Bull's packaging too closely. The Bangkok Post reported that more than a hundred other brands had tried to copy Red Bull's formula in Europe.

Red Bull made its first forays into the southern hemisphere, via South Africa and Brazil, in 2001. In October 2002, Red Bull opened a regional headquarters in Dubai and was planning to build a plant there as well. Red Bull's worldwide sales were estimated at EUR 1.4 billion ($1.32 billion) in 2002.

Much of Red Bull's success in the United States can be attributed to the dedicated, one-brand distribution network operated by the company. Mateschitz set up a separate company to develop and market other drinks, including LunAqua, a New Age brand of water bottled during full moons. A sugar-free version of Red Bull was rolled out in January 2003.

Company Perspectives:

Red Bull is much more than a soft drinkit is an energy drink. It was made for moments of increased physical and mental stress and improves endurance, alertness, concentration, and reaction speed. In short: it vitalizes body and mind. The effectiveness of Red Bull Energy Drink has been proven by a large number of scientific studies and is appreciated by many of the world's top athletes and drivers, opinion-leaders and hard-working people with active lifestyles.

Key Dates:

Dietrich Mateschitz samples Krating Daeng, a Thai energy drink.
Beverage producer Red Bull GmbH is founded in Austria.
Red Bull's product begins sales in Austria.
Red Bull GmbH expands to its first foreign markets.
Red Bull enters the U.S. market via California.
Red Bull Sugarfree is introduced.

Principal Subsidiaries

Luftfahrzeug-Betriebs GmbH; Red Bull North America Inc.; Red Bull UK.

Principal Competitors

Britvic Soft Drinks Ltd.; Coca-Cola Co.; Hansen Beverage Co.; GlaxoSmithKline; Snapple Beverage Group; South Beach Beverage.

Further Reading

Allen, Arthur, "German Kids Are Bullish on a Wonder Drink," Associated Press, Bus. News, August 19, 1994.

Baca, Ricardo, "Red Bull vs. Lion in Bar-Mixer Duel; Energy Drinks Taking Off the Gloves," Denver Post, September 22, 2003, p. F1.

Behar, Hank, "Running of the Bull," Beverage World, December 15, 2001, p. 18.

Cassy, John, "Enragingly Ubiquitous: The High Energy Fizz Drink Has Taken a Lead in Trendy Bars as a Vodka Mixer But Can It Stay the Pace in the Full Light of Day?" Guardian (Manchester, United Kingdom), City Sec., June 26, 2001, p. 21.

Chura, Hillary, "Grabbing Bull by Tail," Advertising Age, June 11, 2001, pp. 4f.

"Energy Pumps up Soft Drinks Trade," Sunday Business Post (Ireland), December 5, 1999.

"Entrepreneur Took the Bull by Its Horns," Des Moines Business Record, December 17, 2001, p. 4.

"Exec Welcomes the Bull," Houston Chronicle, Bus. Sec., July 30, 2000, p. 1.

Goodman, Matthew, "Fast-Consolidating Food, Drinks Industry Targets British Energy Drinks," Sunday Business (London), October 1, 2000.

Hall, Alan, and Steve Bird, "Magical Formula Found in Bangkok," Times (London), Overseas News, July 12, 2001, p. 3.

Hein, Kenneth, "A Bull's Market," Brandweek, May 28, 2001, p. 21.

, "Red Bull Charging Ahead," Brandweek, October 15, 2001, p. M38.

Huffstutter, P.J., "Red Bull's Buzz Rides Tech Bust; The Energy Drink, Hyped as a Powerful Stimulant, Is a Favorite Among Dot-Commers Struggling to Survive," Los Angeles Times, July 2001, p. A1.

Intarakomalyasut, Nondhanada, "Trendy Brits Get Kicks Out of Red Bull: Energy Drink Takes Market by the Horns," Bangkok Post, November 22, 2000, p. 10.

, "Red Bull Extra Repositions Itself as Mixer to Lure Youth," Bangkok Post, May 22, 2003.

Johnson, Branwell, "Has the Energy Drinks Market Lost Its Fizz?" Marketing Week, August 29, 2002, p. 18.

Kositchotethana, Boonsong, "Red Bull Charging," Bangkok Post, August 29, 2003.

Lawton, Christopher, "Marketer Battles Bars Serving Phony Red Bull," Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2003, p. B1.

McCarthy, Michael, "Big Players to Offer Own Energy Drinks; Companies Look to Copy Success of Cult Beverages," USA Today, August 28, 2000, p. 5B.

Monaghan, Gabrielle, "Red Bull's Bad Image Makes It a Hot Pop; Austrian Power Drink Thrives on Rumors," Plain Dealer (Cleveland), July 30, 2000, p. 1H.

Oram, Roderick, "The Kick Inside," Financial Times (London), October 10, 1996, p. 19.

Ortiz, Vikki, "Energy Drink Is All the Buzz," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 7, 2001, p. 1A.

Potterton, Louise, "Red Bull Gives Its Creator Financial Wings," Scotland on Sunday, July 30, 2000, p. 23.

Rahman, Saifur, "Red Bull Plans to Set Up Dubai Plant," Gulf News, April 6, 2003.

"Red Bull CEO Takes Foot off Gas," Nation (Thailand), November 26, 2001.

"Red Bull Sets Sights Up-Market," Bangkok Post, July 12, 2001.

"Red Bull Swaps Wings for Wheels in Bid for F1 Team," Marketing, June 27, 2002, p. 1.

"Red Bull Takes Extreme Sports by the Horns," Brandweek, January 22, 2001, p. 18.

"Red Bull's Roar Heard in America," Bangkok Post, March 14, 2002, p. 1.

Rohwedder, Cacilie, "Teens at the Center of a New Red Scare Sweeping Germany," Wall Street Journal, August 15, 1994, p. A7G.

"Sales of Red Bull Beverage in the United States Grow to 10.5 Million Cases," Bangkok Post, March 14, 2002.

Schmidt, Lucinda, "Copycats Trip Over Spitting Images: Big Brands, after a Landmark Court Win, Have a New Weapon Against Imitators," Business Review Weekly, November 7, 2002, pp. 74ff.

"Selling Energy; Face Value," Economist (United States), May 11, 2002.

"The Supply Structure," Market Intelligence, July 2001, pp. 13ff.

"Thai Businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya Joins Billionaires' Ranks," Bangkok Post, March 1, 2003.

Walker, Rob, "Bull Marketing," Australian Financial Review, August 31, 2002, p. 41.

Frederick C. Ingram