The original Red Bull drink was developed in 1962 by Chaleo Voovidhya, a Thai businessman, and sold under the name Krating Daeng (Thai for Red Bull) by the company TC Pharmaceutical. The recipe was based on Lipovitan, an earlier energy drink that had been introduced to Thailand from Japan. Krating Daeng sales soared across Asia in the 1970’s and 1980’s, especially among truck drivers, construction workers and farmers. The working class image was boosted by sponsorship of Thai boxing matches, where the logo of two red bulls charging each other was often on display.
The Thai product was transformed into a global brand by Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian entrepreneur. Mateschitz was international marketing director for Blendax, a German toothpaste company, when he visited Thailand in 1982 and discovered that Krating Daeng helped to cure his jet lag. Between 1984 and 1987, Mateschitz worked with TC Pharmaceutical (a Blendax licensee) to adapt Krating Daeng for European audiences. At the same time Mateschitz and Voovidhya founded Red Bull GmbH; each investing $500,000 of savings and taking a 49% stake in the new company. They gave the remaining 2% to Yoovidhya’s son Chalerm, but it was agreed that Mateschitz would run the company. Red Bull GmbH launched the Austrian version of Red Bull in 1987, which is carbonated and not as sweet as the original Thai recipe. It is the Austrian formula that has taken almost half of the US market for energy drinks, and up to 80% of the market in some other countries.
In addition to owning half of Red Bull GmbH, Chaleo and his son continue to market the original formula across Asia. In 2006, Forbes Magazine listed Chaleo as being the 292 richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of over $2.5 billion while Mateschitz was listed at number 317.
The architecturally spectacular headquarters of Red Bull GmbH are located in Fuschl am See, Austria.