Wrigley, the corporation behind popular brands like Juicy Fruit and Spearmint, has decided to get into the ever-expanding and controversial energy product market with its next gum. Each stick of “Alert Energy” will contain 40 milligrams of caffeine — about the same as a half a cup of coffee.
According to CBS News, Wrigley has been quick to clarify that the new gum will be catered exclusively to adults and will be produced in a way that prevents children from accidentally eating it:
An eight-piece pack of Alert will retail for $2.99, according to the Journal. Wrigley told the paper the gum will have a bitter, medicinal taste to deter children from consuming it, a concern for many energy products.
“The taste expectations are different for someone who wants to chew gum for energy than for someone who chews gum for flavor. If you come at this as a piece of gum that you chew for enjoyment it’s not going to deliver on that,” Casey Keller, president of the North America division of Wrigley, told the Wall Street Journal. “What we found from energy [drink] consumers is that they’re used to this taste. It’s symbolic of efficacy.” He added that kids won’t like the taste and, “We’ve taken great pains to make this different than traditional gum.”
Other companies have recently gotten attention for their caffeinated products potentially getting into children’s hands. Last November, the advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration to urge action against Frito-Lay’s Cracker Jack’D, a caffeinated version of the 105-year-old popular snack. The organization argued that putting caffeine into “improbable drinks and snacks” could put children and unsuspecting pregnancy women at risk. Frito-Lay said at the time the product line was specifically developed for adult consumers and will not be marketed to kids.
While Wrigley’s asserts that it is doing everything it can to tailor the gum around a very targeted set of consumers, the “bitter, medicinal taste” of Alert Energy won’t do anything to deter accidental ingestion by adults — including groups that could be adversely affected by the product, like pregnant mothers — considering that individual sticks of gum don’t come with nutritional facts or warning labels. There are several other energy gums already available on the market, but only from distributors known specifically for their other energy products, such as Amp and Jolt!.
Energy products have been receiving more and more attention from public health advocates and lawmakers, particularly after the number of ER visits spurred by energy drinks doubled between 2007 and 2011. Monster, one of the most popular energy drinks on the market, recently chose to re-classify itself as an actual “drink” rather than a “dietary supplement” — a particularly interesting development considering that, while the change might force them to drop taurine and other little-known ingredients that are “not generally recognized as safe” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it also relieves the company from having to conduct follow-up research to see if its products have adverse public health consequences. Public health advocates have called on the FDA to conduct this research themselves.