The issue of unhealthy drinks remains high on the news agenda, with sugar in particular proving a major hot potato. Innocent has even been moved to take the step of commissioning academic studies to stave off criticism.

Against this background, last week’s Grocer claimed that energy drinks are ‘bulletproof.’ While other parts of the drinks industry are suffering from unprecedented scrutiny on ingredients and Health claims, and sales are under threat, the energy drink sector is thriving.

As the article explained, this divergence is partly due to the special properties of energy drinks as a range of products - and the fact their claims allow them to stand apart from mainstream drinks.

But I believe something more profound is going on. Here at Thrive, we have observed that many consumers think about health in an unexpected way, following their own logic rather than the logic of news gatherers and opinion formers.

“The way many consumers think about health is often unexpected”

For example, we recently met a mother who declared her belief in giving her kids the best, most balanced nutrition possible, but who also was proud to give them an unlimited quantity of whichever breakfast cereals they wanted - invariably the most sugar-coated ones. When gently challenged about this, she replied that providing nutrition and balance was the job of lunch and dinner - but breakfast was a chance to show her kids she loved them.

In another instance, we were discussing carbonated drinks with a focus group and a member of the team showed the group a can of San Pellegrino flavoured with orange juice, and asked who preferred this drink to another leading brand. We were expecting to initiate a discussion on the health cues in this product, but none of our consumers had ever even seen it on shelf.

The reality is that key messages aren’t getting through to millions of people. Traffic light labelling and other health education measures don’t connect with the people they are supposed to help. Whenever health initiatives are discussed, confusion reigns. Brands, retailers, media, health organisations, and government commentators have their own agendas.

In this jumble, an artificial energy drink loaded with chemicals feels like a simpler purchase - it simply does what it promises.

If we could devote a portion of the brainpower that makes drinks commercially successful, and apply it to making products more transparent, then people would be able to make better choices. This wouldn’t mean an end to sugary cereals or energy drinks - but it would empower consumers and dissuade the government from bringing in damaging statutory regulation.

Claire Nuttall is founding partner of Thrive