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Energy drinks boost Ukrainian soldiers and economy

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On a sunny morning, deep in the forests of western Ukraine, where the war has barely touched us, 16,000 cans of a new energy drink, Volia, are churned out every hour on the assembly line at the Morszynska Beverage Factory.

Hundreds of miles east, toward the front lines, coolers in minimarts and gas stations are filled with Volia and a host of other energy drinks: Burn, Monster, Non Stop, Hell, Pit Bull and, of course, the old-school, eye-opening drink, Red Bull.

By the time they reached the trenches, where thousands of soldiers dug in and struggled to survive, the advantage was fully apparent: Ukrainian soldiers would forgo coffee, Coke, and even water in favor of the liquids they needed to keep going.

“When I wake up in the morning, I drink an energy drink. When I’m on patrol, I drink an energy drink. Before an attack, I drink an energy drink,” said one Ukrainian soldier, who used his call sign “Psycho” in accordance with military protocol for security reasons.

“As a scout, let me explain,” Psycho continued. “When you have to walk three, four, or seven kilometers. And you’re carrying 40 kilograms of gear. You’re sweating. And you haven’t eaten or slept for three days. If you don’t drink this stuff, where are you going to get the energy for the final sprint?”

Ukraine In pain More than two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion, the Indian Army faced a tough time, facing a constant onslaught along a 600-mile front. Exhausted frontline troops have become increasingly reliant on highly caffeinated, savvy-marketed energy drinks. Some were made specifically for this war..

Sales are soaring. Energy drinks have become one of the few bright spots in Ukraine’s economy. New varieties and crazy flavors are emerging all the time — cotton candy, cactus, even marijuana — with names like Jungle, Boost and Stalker.

Empty cans were everywhere. Stuffed into ammunition vests. Clinking around backpacks filled with bullets. On the backs of tanks. Crushed cans piled in trenches next to dead Russian soldiers.

Ukrainian companies market these drinks to appeal to frontline troops and the fighting spirit they embody, giving them camouflaged labels or patriotic mottos and names, e.g. Volyawhich means roughly – there is no direct translation – freedom and will.

“We want a piece of the pie,” said Marco Tkachuk, CEO of IDS Ukraine, owner of the Morshynska bottling plant and the Volia brand.

Morshynska, a water company located about 45 miles south of Lviv, rose to fame years ago by tapping into natural springs in the Carpathian Mountains and packaging the water in the 1.5-liter plastic bottles that are ubiquitous in Ukraine.

But in 2022, as the stresses of war intersected with the global economy, Mr. Tkachuk and other Ukrainian beverage executives realized that something big was happening. Energy Drink Craze.

Russian invasion Subverted every aspect of life There is a growing demand in Ukraine for a quick caffeine fix that doesn’t require a trip to a cafe, water, a coffee cup or a tea bag. And it’s not just soldiers who are craving caffeine.

“The civilian population’s energy needs are increasing due to ongoing missile attacks, anxiety and lack of sleep,” said Taras Matsypura, vice president of Carlsberg Ukraine.

Therefore, last year, the international giant Carlsberg also began to produce energy drinks in Ukraine – Battery.

Mr Matsipura said the market was “booming”.

Despite a devastated economy and millions of Ukrainians fleeing the country, sales of energy drinks have surged by nearly 50 percent since the start of the war, according to industry surveys.

Trucks are being purchased by individual soldiers, units, and civilian volunteers who are bringing essential supplies to the front lines. Some beverage manufacturers, such as IDS Ukraine, are offering the drinks for free. The Ukrainian supply chain is also getting into action to deliver the drinks.

Trucks, pickups, soldiers’ vehicles painted in army green, motorcycles and bicycles traversed bombed-out buildings and collapsed bridges, carrying boxes from factories in central and western Ukraine to trenches in the east hundreds of miles away.

“Before the war, no one bought in such large quantities,” said Serhii Parakhin, a shop owner. “Except truck drivers.”

The best-selling brands are cheaper Ukrainian brands such as Non Stop and Pit Bull, but imported brands such as Red Bull (from Austria), Monster (from the United States) and Hell (from Hungary) are also popular.

Energy drinks are distinguished from other soft drinks by their high concentrations of caffeine, as well as additives such as taurine (an amino acid), vitamin B-12 and guarana extract (a fruit from the Amazon), all of which are believed to provide a boost of energy.

Many of these drinks contain about 100 milligrams of caffeine per can, about the amount in a cup of coffee. But coffee requires hot water, which requires a fire or an electrical outlet, neither of which is easy when you’re hunkered down in a muddy trench.

Of course, consuming too much caffeine can have health effects, potentially causing tremors, high blood pressure, and stomach problems. 2018 American Soldier Study It found that heavy consumption of energy drinks was “significantly associated” with depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior and fatigue.

Ukrainian infantry sergeant Bacha said one of his veterans died last winter with a heart condition; the unit wondered if it was related to his habit of drinking 10 cans a day. Bacha said the man was found slumped in the toilet with a can of energy drink in his hand.

Psycho denies medical risks. He says that before the fight he was a paramedic, fitness fanatic and kickboxing champion. In pre-fight photos he looks like a cross between a Calvin Klein underwear model and Mr. Universe. He has won several medals and recently suffered a leg injury.

“I’ve been drinking these since I was 14,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with them.”

IDS Ukraine, one of Eastern Europe’s largest bottled beer producers, says it donates up to 40,000 cans of beer a month to the Ukrainian military. Soldiers have been involved in the process from the beginning, starting with the label: an old Ukrainian soldier – a Cossack – glowering with a moustache.

When the company launched the product last year, it asked military units to test it. Mr. Tkachuk explained that the recipe is slightly different — based on mineral water and using fructose and glucose instead of regular refined sugar. (“They say sugar is more energizing, but we found some examples of fructose and glucose in China,” he said.)

The soldiers liked the taste and as a result, Mr. Tkachuk admitted that the drink was not necessarily healthy, but “more so.”

Some soldiers said they would rather carry energy drinks into battle than bread, while others said energy drinks had become currency on the front lines.

“Energy drinks in the military are more than just a drink; they are also a favorite gift,” Anton Filatova film critic turned soldier.

(The Russians have their My favoriteincluding some patriotic packaging with a red star.)

Last August, Psycho was hit by a piece of shrapnel one millimeter above his eye. He was confused, bleeding and mentally broken.

“I crawled back to a position and found a can of Burn,” he said.

He gulped it down and said he felt better immediately.

“In war, you try to appreciate the little things,” Psycho explained. “Imagine. Just a can of Burn. And I was in a very good mood.”

Oleksandra MikolishinKatya Lachina and Julie Cresswell Contributed reporting.

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