As one of the highest-grossing beverages in the world, Red Bull is a powerhouse in the realm of energy drinks. But what separates it from the pack is its ability to package itself as an influential lifestyle brand, aligning itself with skydiving, motocross, paragliding, and even EDM festivals.
While you’ve probably used the drink to pull an all-nighter or down some Jagerbombs rather than extreme parasailing, chances are it has given you wings one way or another. From the brand’s humble beginnings in Thailand, to its growth into the music sector, here are 11 interesting facts you might not know about this industry giant.
1. The recipe is based off a drink loved by Thai truck drivers.
Red Bull began as a Thai energy drink, called Krating Daeng, marketed towards factory workers and truckers trying to get through long shifts. The original mix was made with the same combination of taurine and caffeine but is actually sweeter than our modern version. Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz discovered that Krating Daeng cured him of his jet lag on a business trip to Thailand. He liked it so much he eventually tracked down creator, Chaleo Yoovidhya, and the two went into business together. Mateschitz rebranded it as Red Bull, made the drink berry flavored, and brought it to European markets in 1987. (Photo: Flickr/Matt Biddulph)
2. At one point it was banned for allegedly containing cocaine.
Red Bull was pulled from German markets after authorities found trace amounts of cocaine in the drink. The company states that it does use coca leaves, but only as a flavoring agent after removing the cocaine alkaloid. However, Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment found that the small amount, 0.13 micrograms to be exact, posed no serious health risk. (Turns out, you would have to drink almost 12,000 liters to feel the effects.) (Photo: Wikicommons)
3. Redbull has launched someone into space.
As part of the Red Bull Stratos, the brand sent Austrian skydiver and Red Bull athlete Felix Baumgartner 24 miles up into space in a helium balloon. Decked out in a Red Bull pressure suit, Baumgartner was free falling at speeds over 830 miles per hour before he deployed his parachute. Baumgartner broke the sound barrier, becoming the first person to do so without using any engines. It may come as no surprise that owner Dietrich Mateschitz is a pilot and extreme-sports enthusiast himself.
4. Red Bull originally paid college kids to party with it.
Dietrich Mateschitz wanted to create a cult following to brand Red Bull as the drink of young people having fun. In order to boost its image in an era before Instagram celebrities, he sought out popular university students and paid them to throw parties in unusual locations. He then supplied them with enough Red Bull to tie on the tops of their cars when they went back to school. The trend caught on, and now Red Bull can be found in nightclubs around the world. (Photo: normanokdj.com)
5. There have been some serious purported health risks.
— TheLADbible (@TheLadBible) August 3, 2015
There have been several cases of Red Bull-induced hospitalizations, with patients suffering from heart palpitations and difficulty breathing. Last summer, a 16-year-old girl died while on vacation in Mexico after consuming the drink. More recently, a woman reported going blind after ingesting 28 Red Bulls.
6. The brand might owe you cash.
If you’ve had a Red Bull in the past 12 years, you could get 10 bucks. In 2013 the company was sued for false advertising in a class-action lawsuit that stated that the company’s logo “Red Bull gives you wings” was misleading to consumers. Red Bull agreed to a settlement of 13 million dollars for its American consumers, offering 10 dollars or 15 dollars worth of Red Bull products. (Photo: e-conomic.co.uk)
7. The heir to the Red Bull fortune killed a police officer.
— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) September 3, 2013
In 2012, Vorayuth Yoovidhya, heir to the multi-billion dollar company, was driving his Ferrari when he collided with and killed a police officer. Yoovidhya fled the scene, leaving the officer’s body in the street. He then tried to cover up the incident, causing an officer to be suspended for allegedly corroborating his attempt to put up another suspect for the crime. Yoovidhya was charged with causing a death with negligence and hit and run. While reckless driving can carry up to 10 years in prison under Thai law, it seems unlikely that Yoovidhya will serve any time in prison. In 2013 Yoovidhya failed to show in court; his lawyer told prosecutors that his client was suffering from influenza in Singapore. Since then no news has come out regarding Yoovidhya’s sentence.
8. A Korean student was deported from Canada for drinking too much.
Jyong Chul Lee, a Korean student studying abroad at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, was expelled after having a Red Bull-induced outburst in the cafeteria. Lee was charged with creating a disturbance and criminal harassment, causing him to be deported from Canada. According to a psychiatric report, Lee was suffering from caffeine intoxication after drinking almost 500–600mg of caffeine a day. (Photo: jcsimmigration.com)
9. It has a burgeoning record label.
Headed by a former vice president of Atlantic Records, Red Bull Records was launched in 2007. So far the most well-known group signed to the label is the electronic-rock band Awolnation. Red Bull also has its own music academy, counting acts like Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke, and Tokimonsta as its alumni. (Photo: redbullmusicacademy.com)
10. Last year alone it sold 5.6 billion cans.
That’s more than 400 tons of caffeine. Red Bull is the highest-grossing energy drink in the world, followed by Monster and Rockstar. In total the brand has sold 50 billion cans in over 167 different countries. Dietrich Mateschitz is now the richest man in Austria, and Yoovidhya is the second-richest person in Thailand. (Photo: ucarochester.com)
11. Redbull HQ is James Bond-esque.
Complete with infinity pools and Formula 1 display cars, the Red Bull headquarters in Fuschl am See, Austria is a completely swagged-out. Housing the Red Bull creative team, the compound is comprised of two domes that float on a boat-shaped lake. They also have their own hangar in the Salzburg airport that hosts a lineup of vintage aircrafts and helicopters, along with an art gallery and a restaurant, aptly named Ikarus, that features a new top chef from around the world every month. Its offices around the world are consistent with the headquarter’s sleek, minimalistic design.