Save Mart stores drop "51Fifty" energy drink

Posted at 6:05 PM, Mar 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-23 21:05:59-04

Save Mart stores are dropping an energy drink called 51Fifty following an outcry from the mental health community. 

The energy drink, 51Fifty was created in 2011 and is on the shelves of Save Mart and Fastrips around Bakersfield.

The CEO of 51Fifty, Carlos Vieira said the name stemmed from his decision to chase his dream of becoming a race car driver at the age of 35. He said his friends at the time called him crazy, but he did it anyway. His car number was 51 and he added the word "fifty" beneath it and that's how the 51Fifty brand was created. 

"It's about never giving up in life, never quitting, you know challenging yourself and not listening to the people around you trying to hold you back," said Vieira. 

However, the name has another common association with a California code which reads, in part, "when a person, as a result of a mental disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself."

Since the California code definition is well known, the drink is receiving pushback from the mental health community. The Director of Kern County Department of Mental Health said he was shocked to hear about the drink.

"It just stunned me, because you're equating one of the worst episodes of many people's lives, being detained due to a psychiatric condition, and then you're labeling that on a drink."

After mental health advocates wrote to Save Mart regarding their feelings about the drink, Save Mart announced it would discontinue the drinks.

Save Mart responded to 23ABC in a statement:

"As a Central Valley business, it’s important to us that we source local products. 51Fifty Energy Drink was popular among Save Mart shoppers; however, our sale of the product was never intended to diminish the seriousness of mental illness. We have made the decision to discontinue this product in our stores."

Save Mart said they will finish selling all of the product they currently have, but will not purchase any more. 

Vieira said he knew the meaning of the California code, but said his brand, which also donates a percentage from every energy drink to organizations like autism awareness and keeping kids off of the streets, represents something completely different. 

"People said I was never going to make it and some of the ideas I had were kind of crazy," said Vieira. "I didn't listen to those people, I followed my dream, I believed in myself and that's what 51Fifty means."

Vieira said when he was first approached by mental health activists he listened to their opinion carefully and even made the decision to change the definition on the can from the California code to his definition. 

Still, Bill Walker from the KC Department of Mental Health said he doesn't agree with it. 

"If you really want to make something exciting and say this is your dreams -- no it isn't this is people's nightmares and you are now capitalizing on that and putting a shine on it," said Walker. 

Vieira said he hopes Save Mart changes its mind about no longer carrying the drink, but said he has no plans to change the name of the company because it would go against everything his brand represents.