by Marion Nestle
Apr 30 2013

Annals of marketing: Wrigley’s caffeinated gum comes to market

Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars (M&Ms), announced its new caffeinated chewing gum yesterday in a full-page ad in USA Today.

In response, Michael Taylor,  the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, issued an official comment:

The only time that FDA explicitly approved the added use of caffeine in a food was for cola and that was in the 1950s. Today, the environment has changed. Children and adolescents may be exposed to caffeine beyond those foods in which caffeine is naturally found and beyond anything FDA envisioned when it made the determination regarding caffeine in cola.

For that reason, FDA is taking a fresh look at the potential impact that the totality of new and easy sources of caffeine may have on the health of children and adolescents, and if necessary, will take appropriate action.

This is what the fuss is about:

Alert™ Energy Caffeine Gum - Mint

As Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) points out, is this something we need?

While the FDA is busy investigating deaths linked (although not conclusively) to caffeinated energy drinks, CSPI has alerted the agency to the increasingly widespread addition of caffeine to foods.

The gum contains 40 milligrams of caffeine per piece, with 8 pieces per box.

Forty milligrams isn’t much but look what else is caffeinated these days: Frito Lay’s Cracker Jack’d snack, Kraft’s MiO Energy water enhancer, and jelly beans, waffles, maple syrup, popcorn, and  beef jerky.  These are in addition to the usual sources of caffeine: coffee, tea, and cola drinks.

Most people can manage small amounts of caffeine without sleep interruptions, but larger amounts are a worry.

Pediatricians discourage use of caffeine by children and adolescents who are highly sensitive to its effects: restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and sometimes worse.

CSPI points out that Wrigley’s used to position gum as a study aid and list caffeine consumption alongside snacking and studying late at night as “choices which can negatively affect [students’] scholastic performance, as well as their overall health.”

Now, the company is pushing caffeinated gum….

Anything to sell chewing gum, I guess.

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  • Sarita

    Sounds like a genius move for the ADHD crowd, though. I totally see what the concerns are, but for me and my addled kiddo, bring it on! (at safe, infrequent, controlled intervals)

  • brainmatters

    Oh, lord–now even more people will be bagging my groceries, cutting my hair, serving my food, and generally disgusting me by mangling their jaws around with a mouthful of gum.

    Yuk. If I didn’t hate the custom of chewing (anything other than food with mouth SHUT) in public so much, I might try it just to avoid so many bathroom trips from my coffee habit!

    Whatever IS the point of gum?

  • Wow I would not like my kids to chew on this at all!!! Young ones are already exposed to so much at unhealthy fast foods, and now to add to it an addiction towards caffeine on top of fast unhealthy foods.

    When is it going to be enough!

  • The ADHD are really making a great move in this concept. Thanks for the insight.

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  • Is there really a market for this? Seems like Co’s trying to jump on the ‘bandwagon’ of Red Bull & other such drinks, but seems like such a low dosage that it’s almost pointless….what next?!

  • Adding caffeine to gum seems excessive. Every time I see a gum commercial or advertisement in a magazine I feel the way it is marketed is very aggressive and outlandish. It does not surprise me at all that they have taken this damaging approach to make money. Thanks for the informative article.

  • Kyle S

    If you don’t want the gum, don’t buy it. It’s not about what we need, it’s about what you’re allowed to prevent from happening.

    Please be informed that your vote is always enforced by violent means. If you vote to make caffeinated gum illegal, and I try to produce it, you’re saying you support the violence that it would require to stop me from producing it.

    Please remember non-violent leaders such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King who brought about change not by force but by nonviolent resistance. Caffeinated gum is not something which I believe warrants adding violence to the world to prevent.

  • Miguel Gomez

    It’s simple, really.
    This product is clearly marketed as something with added caffeine.
    If you don’t want to have more caffeine in your diet, you can simply not buy it.
    “Anything to sell chewing gum”… Of course! That’s the wonder of capitalism: companies (big and small) innovating, creating new products with the hope that people will choose, voluntarily, to buy them. Every year, hundreds of products are retired from shelves because the market didn’t want them. If it wasn’t for companies constantly innovating to sell us improved (or at least, new) products, we would still be using rotary phones.

    Why do you want the government to decide for people what we should buy or not?

  • Now we have a new product to be careful about. It is true that too much caffeine in our system is not good for the health. I used to be addicted to energy drinks and drink at least one bottle a day to perk me up at work. Later on, I am already having trouble with sleep and suffered from insomnia. I also experienced day sleepiness and became dependent on caffeinated drinks to give me energy on a daily basis. As soon as I heard that people have died due to too much caffeine, I immediately minimized my intake and later on stopped drinking drinks with caffeine. It has a good effect on me because now I can sleep well and can work well even without it. It is very alarming that even a piece of gum and chips contain caffeine. Thanks for featuring this in your post, I will encourage my friends not to buy it.

  • Norma

    Where was this outrage when Rockstar, AMP and Volt came out with caffeine gum 3 or 4 years ago.Alert isn’t marketed to kids, it doesn’t have kid friendly graphics on the packaging, priced higher than regular gum and they don’t have commercials doing kids program ie.. McDonald’s and other fast foods. It’s your job to teach and monitor what your kids are doing and eating and frankly what your kids get served at public schools for lunch is far worst. What about soda machines in junior and high schools that has “Caffeine”. So people get off your high horse and don’t buy the product but don’t stop me and others from having the opportunity to buy it if we want. I’ll get off my soap box now.

  • Peggy

    Have you noticed that ALL gum comes with a warning label? Some cancer causing ingredient. Can’t remember the name. Check it out next time you are in line at the grocery. Caffeine would be the least of my worry..though that is not good either.

  • Wow! People you need to be concerned about anything the companies are putting in all your foods, drinks, gum etc… Caffeine has been proven to increase tension in children and adults. I am not sure if you read about the rate at which people are developing anxiety disorders, attention problems(ADHD & ADD is not a clinically provable disorder, it is a means for which pharmaceutical manufactures can make money from normal children, Do some real research and you will find the truth about ADHD & ADD), and depression, the list goes on….. Caffeine withdraws also causes headaches proven fact. It is a stimulant and can be addictive.
    To address the issue of well if you don’t want it don’t buy it then what about our kids that don’t understand what this stuff can do to them and they have free access to these products they don’t understand warning labels. Products that have warning labels should be behind a counter were children can’t buy them, Oh yeah but then the whole store would be behind the counter!!
    Educate – Stop the poisoning of our children
    Research – Understand the effect of additives to our food, drinks, etc…
    Moderate – enjoy life’s simply pleasures with responsibility.
    Wake up – educate by doing your research, enjoy life in moderation. Don’t be a dollar sign to the United States of Corporate Government.

  • Follow Up link to previos post.