The 1970’s were a colourful decade for Thailand. Some remember that in 1972, the government banned the consumption of alcohol between 2PM and 5PM daily, and enforced a midnight closing hour on all entertainment venues, including nightclubs. (We’re pleased to inform that this is no longer the case). Some remember 1972 for the first successful sex change operation in Thailand, performed on a patient determined to commit suicide if the surgery wasn’t attempted. Others still would think back on 1975, when a bill was passed that allowed citizens to carry a gun without a license due to a spike in crime. What few people remember about the 1970’s in Thailand, is that one of the globe’s most successful brands was born of humble beginnings in Thailand’s farmlands, in 1976. We’re talking, of course, about the original Thai Red Bull, and precursor to the global Red Bull, the popular carbonated drink that ‘gives you wings‘.
A Stroke of Uneducated Genius
Hailing from a humble rural home in Phichit, Chaleo Yoovidhya received very little formal education and worked for his parents raising ducks and trading fruit. After moving to the bustling ‘burbs of Bangkok, Chaleo found employment as an antibiotics salesman and became immersed in the world of pharmaceuticals. In the early ’60’s, he took the plunge and started his own successful pharmaceuticals company, TC Pharmaceuticals.
It was in leadership of this company that Chaleo had a stroke of divine inspiration (his words, by the way), and he formulated an energy drink that he called “Krating Daeng”. He did so after noting a lack of affordable energy supplements for people working in physically demanding environments. Serving farm laborers, factory workers, and truck drivers, the then-unknown drink wasn’t particularly popular and remained extremely cheap.
What’s in Krating Daeng?
Krating Daeng contains water, cane sugar, caffeine, taurine, inositol, and B-vitamins.
Because an energy tonic would be easier to drink than to chew.
2- Cane Sugar
To make the drink palatable and sweet, cane sugar is a cheap sweetener option that’s grown in abundance in Asia. Sugar also acts as a good fuel and adds to the energizing benefits of the drink.
Derived from plant sources, caffeine is a common central nervous system stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks and caffeinated medications. It also enhances physical energy and is known for its athletic benefits. Basically, it’s bloody good stuff, when used in moderation.
This important little amino acid is actually produced naturally in the body’s metabolic processes. It’s believed to have antioxidant properties and also acts as a nervous system depressant, which you might think odd for an energy drink. However, when synthetic taurine found in energy drinks is combined with caffeine, the taurine helps the brain cope with the caffeine stimulant, resulting in a heightened mental alertness. Just what your average truck driver needs when traveling in Thailand!
Inositol is a type of carbohydrate also produced naturally in the body, with the highest concentration sitting in the brain, where it acts as a stabiliser. Synthetic inositol is known to be beneficial for the treatment of bipolar disorder, bulimia, panic disorder, and other similar conditions. It’s also known to aid in hair growth, which is awesomely useful when trying to look fabulous in one of Thailand’s popular nightclubs.
B-Vitamins are essential for the body to convert food into energy. They aid in coping with stress too, in case you find touring Thailand particularly onerous.
How Did Krating Daeng get its Wings?
As luck would have it (for Chaleo, that is), a really entrepreneurial Austrian dude named Dietrich Mateschitz was traveling in Thailand and found himself overcome by the effects of jetlag. It’s said that, having cured his exhaustion with Krating Daeng, he pondered the energy drink’s potential as he sat at the bar of the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong. One thing led to another, and after tracking Chaleo Yoovidhya down and forming a partnership, the Red Bull that we all know today was launched in 1987.
However, the Red Bull that gives the world wings today is only a shadow of the potent Thai original. Watered down and carbonated, western Red Bull contains far less fuel and does not pack the same kind of punch found in the little brown bottle of Thai syrup.
Where to find Krating Daeng
If you’re stuck in the western world, this little potion can be pretty hard to come by. Due to trademark infringements with Red Bull Austria, the Thai Red Bull is no longer distributed anywhere other than most Asian countries. However, in Thailand, it can be picked up at just about any store, and for a fraction of the cost of its western counterpart. Let us know when you get here, and we’ll point you in the right direction!