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Monster Subject to Fewer Reporting Requirements as a 'Beverage'

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 21, 2013 10:03 AM

Sometimes, a tiny change in perspective can make life easier within a legal department. Little distinctions, like whether a glass is half-full or half-empty, whether a product is a beverage or a diet supplement; those are the differences that can make or break you during bonus season.

So it looks like the lawyers for Monster Energy Drinks are earning whatever bonuses come their way this year.

Monster Beverage, the country's highest volume energy drink seller, has made the leap from high-caffeine diet supplement to high-caffeine beverage, reports The New York Times. The difference between the two is primarily the company's reporting requirements. Monster is no longer required to notify federal regulators about reports that potentially link its products to deaths and injuries.

So why the change?

Calling the drink a dietary supplement was a marketing strategy to convince consumers that Monster Energy Drinks were no ordinary energy drinks. But the increased potential for diet supplement sales was accompanied by stricter FDA requirements relating to warnings, safety information, labeling, health claims, and those pesky reporting requirements.

It's not like the legal team pulled a fast one on the federal regulators. Monster Energy Drinks can qualify as either a beverage or a diet supplement, spokesman Michael Sitrick told the Times. Sitrick says that company opted to market Monster as a beverages to combat the "misguided criticism" that Monster was selling its energy drinks as dietary supplements because of the belief that such products were more lightly regulated than beverages. (What? Who exactly were these critics?) He also noted that customers can use government food stamps to buy beverages.

Less regulation and a larger consumer base? It sounds like Monster Beverage has pretty sharp lawyers.

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