"A Buddhist monk" would not be the first guess from most people when asked who invented the5-Hour Energy drink. But Forbes reporter Clare O'Conner discovered that's exactly who is behind the phenomenon that has a 90%-near monopoly of the energy shot market.
Specifically, credit goes to Michigan resident Manoj Bhargava, 58, who came up with the idea after visiting a natural products trade show in California several years ago.
So, how does Bhargava's billion-dollar energy drink invention line-up with his personal philosophy?
"5-Hour Energy is not an energy drink, it's a focus drink," Bhargava tells Forbes. "But we can't say that. The FDA doesn't like the word 'focus.' I have no idea why."
Bhargava was born in India, but his parents moved to the United States when he was a child so his father could pursue a career in the plastics industry. After dropping out of college after one year, Bhargava returned to India, where he became a member of the Hanslok Ashram order and lived the lifestyle of a Buddhist "monk" for 12 years. (I put "monk" in quotes because Bhargava tells Forbes there's no real word in English language to exactly capture what he and his fellow devotees were doing, instead likening it more to a commune, minus the drugs.)
Even though he eventually returned to the U.S. to pursue his own career, Bhargava still spends 1 hour a day in his basement practicing silent meditation. He also says he drinks one 5-Five Hour Energy each morning and another before his thrice weekly tennis matches.
All that said, O'Conner unearths some details about Bhargava that sound decidedly un-Buddhist. He's fond of comparing himself to Matt Damon's character in Good Will Hunting, refers to himself as "the richest Indian in America," and hasn't been shy about taking out the competition, filing 91 lawsuits.
While Bhargava has continued to maintain his dominance in the energy shot market, there is no shortage of weird alternatives making their way onto the market. The makers of Aero Shot have recently begun selling an "energy shot" spray that contains the equivalent caffeine dose of one cup of coffee per spray. The Aero Shot is raising health and safety concerns because of the ease in which the caffeine is delivered. Exercise enthusiasts have also leaned heavily on a still-legal chemical known asDMAA, which one Sideshow reader described to me as "5-Hour Meth."