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Liquid Snooze: Introducing Relaxation Drinks

Energy drinks aren't just amping up consumers—they're fueling a new beverage niche.

How to combat a day saturated by Red Bull and Starbucks? Scale back? Of course not! A new wave of companies has seized upon America's overstimulating liquid habits, selling soporific drinks aimed at helping people relax and fall asleep.

These anti-energy drinks, laced with things like melatonin and rose hips, comprise 350 new products, including Unwind, Dream Water, and Drank. Growth has been anything but snoozy: As the energy-drink market hit a high of $1.8 billion last year, relaxation drinks reached $49 million — a number that's expected to increase by at least 50% in 2011, according to research firm IbisWorld. "You would think energy drinks would be a fad, but it's lasted," says Technomic beverage-industry analyst Joseph Pawlak, citing the complementary nature of rev-up and wind-down drinks as a growth factor.

Some calming elixirs skirt FDA oversight through dietary-supplement labels, which allow drink makers to position their bottles alongside sleep aids in Walmart and Walgreens stores nationwide. "We're trying to be as mainstream a sleep enhancer as possible," says Dream Water co-owner David Lekach. Others are cozying up to their supercharged counterparts in the beverage aisle. As Drank founder Peter Bianchi says, "I am the Red Bull of the relaxation industry."

A version of this article appeared in the June 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.