I used to be a big consumer of that revitalising nectar Red Bull, particularly when I was pulling long hours at work and then long evenings & weekends on Ogre. At least one a day, often 2 and 3 was not that unusual - although after setting myself a record one evening (5 in 3 hours), I learned the meaning of the word ‘moderation’ (is the world supposed to oscillate in time with the pulse in my head?). Now that I’m a lot more balanced work-wise, I rarely drink it any more although we always have some in the fridge. You know, in case of emergencies.
Last night I found in the fridge a can of something called ‘Relentless’ - my wife had seen it in the supermarket and knew I like to try different energy drinks (even though the necessity is reduced now), despite the fact that I’ve never found one to match Red Bull before. And I’ve tried any I could get my hands on, the only one that really eluded me was Bawls, which was never distributed in the UK for some reason. So, I cracked open the Relentless can at about 8pm to give it a try - we had some friends around anyway so I could do to be mentally alert.
The first thing you notice is that it smells incredibly similar to Red Bull. The next thing, if you pour it into a glass, is that it’s also a very similar colour (yellow), albeit a little darker. On trying it, you can’t avoid the conclusion that Coca Cola, who manufacture the drink, have just decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and have basically tried to rip off Red Bull as much as possible, because it even tastes incredibly similar. It’s not quite the same, but it’s so similar as to render any claim that it’s not a copy moot.
Looking at the ingredients and ‘nutritional’ content, again you’re struck by the similarities, right down to the proportions:
- Caffeine content - 32mg/100ml
- Taurine - 0.4%
- Glucoronolactone - 0.24%
- Vitamins: Niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12
The only real difference I can see is that Red Bull has Glucose as well as Sucrose, although Relentless just says ‘Sugar’ which potentially could be both I suppose, and Relentless also includes guarana, which Red Bull doesn’t - this gives Relentless a very slight aftertaste which Red Bull doesn’t have.
The main difference though is the size of the can. Relentless is delivered in a startlingly large Special Brew-style can clocking in at 500ml, as opposed to Red Bull’s 250ml. For this extra volume you pay a small premium but it’s not as much as 2 cans of Red Bull, resulting in Relentless being about 35% cheaper than Red Bull, volume for volume - so they’re obviously going for the value checkbox here.
And the results? Well, it’s exactly like drinking 2 cans of Red Bull. To be honest, that was too much for me mid-evening now and disturbed my sleep patterns; in hindsight I’d have preferred just one can of the slightly better tasting Red Bull in that context. I think the 250ml can is actually well thought out for a small evening perk which lasts long enough to be useful but not too long to be disrupting - although if you mix it with alcohol as many do they kind of cancel each other out. If, however, you need more of a boost, as I once did, Relentless will give you the same results for a cheaper price; albeit for a marginally less pleasant taste.
Given that this is such a blatant rip-off of Red Bull I wonder if we’ll see any trade secret legal wranglings in the future. I notice they’ve deliberately tried to brand it very differently (it looks a bit Goth, to be honest - and the ads are rubbish) but anyone trying it can’t help but recognise it as a copycat. But then we still have Coke and Pepsi, so it probably wouldn’t do any good if they tried.