Monster Fights to Stay in India After Its Drinks Are Banned

Monster Beverage Corp. is revamping recipes and heading to court to try to keep its energy drinks on shelves in India after regulators declared its ginseng-laced beverages unsafe.

Indian Health officials banned the drinks last month, forcing Monster to pull cans already on the market. The government ruled that combining caffeine and ginseng was “irrational” and has an “opposing” effect on the body.

“Caffeinated beverages containing the ingredient ginseng can no longer be sold in India,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “Unfortunately, even though Monster Energy drinks contain low levels of ginseng, we had no alternative but to stop selling Monster Energy products in India, and we have directed our distributors to stop selling them there as well.”

The order is a setback for Monster as it prepares for a harder push into international markets with help from its new minority owner, Coca-Cola Co. Monster sold the soda maker a 17 percent stake this month, in part to get better access to its global distribution network.

An Indian court will hold a hearing during the first week of July over the determination by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Monster said. Monster declined to disclose its sales volume in India, other than to say it is small.

The drinks, for which Monster first sought Indian approval in 2012, were given a temporary go-ahead while a scientific panel reviewed the ingredients, according to the government. The panel then recommended rejection last year. A series of court actions led to a May 8 order to halt sales and recall products already available.

Monster said the Panax ginseng it uses has been safely consumed for thousands of years. The Corona, California-based company also said it has sold more than 13 billion cans containing ginseng since 2002 worldwide.

As a backup, Monster said it’s seeking permission to sell a version without ginseng.

“Monster Energy hopes to return to selling our products in India in the near future,” the company said.