The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has told the producers of the energy drink 'Red Bull' that in future it will have to seek prior approval for its advertisements.

Complaints dating back to 1997 referred to claims made by Red Bull that it "improves concentration, improves reaction time and improves endurance." The ASA upheld these complaints after the Austrian-based company could not back its claims during the period the complaints were made.

The advertisements were published in the spring of 1997. One appeared in a magazine, one in the national press, one on a computer game and one was attached to a petrol pump.

The ASA acknowledged that the advertisers' now hold product-specific trials based on the consumption of the contents of one can of Red Bull. But in future Red Bull will still have to seek approval from the Committee of Advertising Practice copy advice team before running advertisements promoting the product.

Red Bull UK MD, Harry Drnec said: "Although Red Bull does not agree with this decision, we are pleased that the situation is finally concluded and that the ASA have now acknowledged the existence of the recent research studies, which could not be taken into consideration in the investigation process."

He continued: "We do not force volumes of scientific evidence down consumers throat. Our principle is to make the product available in the right places at the right time with the right message. The consumer then tries it and makes up their own mind if it works."

"Sales of 260 million cans in the UK last year, a 51% share of the sports energy drink market and a 50% growth rate, rather confirms that consumers agree with us," he added.

European consumption of functional soft drinks has almost trebled from 800 million litres in 1995 to 2100 million litres in 1999. And in the UK alone, some £50m was spent on advertising energy and sports drinks between 1996 and 1999.

Figures from Zenith International show that even though 62% of all outlets do not sell single cans of Red Bull - the energy drink 'designed to give you wings' still out sold cans of Coca-Cola in UK supermarkets in 1999.

Sarah Diston