Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Stacks of Celsius in Jansen’s Market on 02/16.

February 20, 2023

The Rise (and fall?) of CELSIUS Energy Drinks at Cornell

Print More

There is no question that a college student and caffeine remain a universally dynamic duo in which a whopping 92 percent of students have used in the past year, with an average consumption of 159 milligrams per day (about one and a half cups of coffee). Whether caffeine’s energy boost is used by students for waking up, studying or staying alert and focused with a “pick me up” or working out, there is a seemingly endless supply of products available on the shelves to feed the demand behind student consumption. One of these products —  CELSIUS energy drinks — has recently been stimulating its way through the Cornell student body where it is becoming ever so common to see the signature white can and Celsius logo with the slogan “Live Fit” peeking out of the hands of students. Always within close reaching distance on desks and tables and in hand while walking to classes, these drinks have become a routine and reliable companion for many — as demonstrated by almost 100,000 Amazon reviews with a 4.7/5 star rating.  But what exactly is so special about these drinks named after a unit of measurement for temperature and why are there so many? In fact, Cornell’s convenience stores such as Jansen’s Market and Bear Necessities have had a shockingly high supply of these drinks beginning this Spring 2023 semester, with boxes of drinks loaded on top of each other multiple feet high and on center display to easily be purchased with BRBs or other payments. Here, we will dive further into the background of this energy drink that is rapidly gaining popularity and business on Cornell’s campus.

The website of CELSIUS coins the product as a “functional drink…completely vegan, free of carbohydrates, [and] containing only natural flavors and colors.” With a nutrition profile seemingly too good to be true, each 12 ounce can contains 200 milligram of caffeine accompanied by the stimulating amino acid taurine and along with other various vitamins. “Live Fit” — the company’s slogan — complies with the company’s mission that “When combined with exercise, our formula is clinically proven to boost your metabolism and help you burn body fat” in a wide variety of refreshing flavors such as Arctic Vibe Frozen Berry, Raspberry Acai Green Tea, Fuji Apple Pear and Tropical Vibe Starfruit Pineapple. However, there are some details that are not as transparent from a first glance at this company’s mission that may very well be juicier than the product flavors themselves. 

There is currently a class action lawsuit being held against CELSIUS due to the words “Preservative Free” printed on the top of each can, despite the presence of citric acid in the ingredients. CELSIUS denies this accusation, claiming that citric acid is used as a flavoring instead of as a preservative. Anyone who has purchased a beverage from the company between Jan. 15, 2015 and Nov. 23, 2022 is eligible to be a class member and is entitled to receive a cash payment as long as potential members have submitted a valid claim by Feb. 13, 2023. With a $7.8 million total payout, those with valid claims can receive 1 dollar for every purchased can and $5 per package of purchased powder packs similar to the Gatorade and Liquid I.V. sticks.  This chunk of change is of course not advantageous for CELSIUS to be responsible for, but could this settlement be the reason there are so many CELSIUS drinks recently being put up for sale in Cornell’s convenience stores?

While shopping for other goods from Bear Necessities, I coincidentally came upon a flyer for a related CELSIUS marketing promo of which the conditions entail purchasing two 12 ounce CELSIUS cans for $5 to be entered into a drawing to win a kayak. Further directions of how to enter personal information to be notified of a winning were however left out of the flyer. Of all prizes available that could be helpful for a college student, a kayak is a strange choice — maybe the lucky winner will be able to have a smooth ride during the rainy season, but this promo demonstrates even further incentive to purchase CELSIUS products. 

In a seemingly contradictory fashion, CELSIUS seems to be running a promo to purchase more drinks while simultaneously having to pay out customers who bought said drinks. Could it be an attempt to recover the $7.8 million being paid out in the class action? Or maybe a surplus of supply to meet the growing demand of energy drinks fueling Cornell students? It is quite possible this excessive surplus of drinks could have been mistakenly purchased from Cornell as well. 

While CELSIUS drinks and their nutrition labels may appear clean, health-oriented and energizing on shelves, a lot more is going on behind the scenes with this company’s class action lawsuit and marketing promotion. These factors very well could be related to the recent seemingly absurd surplus of drinks found in convenience stores across campus and the reason behind how these drinks have become so accessible and popular at Cornell. Despite being in a complicated and intriguing situation, these drinks are a hit in taking part to energize our student population and may be worth a try for those experienced with caffeine and looking for a new energy drink that is simpler and more effective. 

Kyle Roth is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. He can be reached at [email protected].