Produced by Drew Trachtenberg
Wrigley is about to roll out a new brand of gum -- and, the company warns, it has a bitter, medicinal taste.
Still, Wrigley has high expectations for the product, because it's packed with caffeine. The name is Alert Energy Caffeine Gum; not quite as catchy as Juicy Fruit, Doublemint, or some of the company's other big sellers, but it does tell the buyer exactly what to expect.
It joins a rapidly growing list of high energy products –- mostly beverages such as Monster (MNST), Pepsico's (PEP) AMP, and 5-hour Energy. But these drinks have been controversial because of their popularity with teens and potential health risks. The FDA is investigating reports of several people who died after consuming these high-caffeine drinks, although no direct link between the two has been found.
Wrigley acknowledges that the caffeine-infused product line is a complex area, and says it wants to enter the field "the right way." The packaging is transparent in terms of the product name, the ingredients, and the warning label, which advises that the gum is not recommended for children or people with caffeine sensitivity. The product also comes in a format that differentiates it from an ordinary stick of gum: a stand-up pack with eight six-sided pellets. Each pellet contains more caffeine than a 12-ounce bottle of Coke (KO), but less than a cup of coffee.
A pack costs $2.99. The gum will start to appear in supermarkets and convenience stores next month, available in two flavors, fruit or mint. Wrigley says the taste is bitter, like drinking coffee, and expects that to be a turn-off for kids.
Of course, millions of us depend on a caffeine boost once in a while -- or, in some cases, every day. It used to come from coffee or soda; more recently, energy drinks. Now, Wrigley is cutting out the middleman of consumption almost entirely; chewing is all that will be required, reducing caffeine ingestion to pure habit. How will groggy consumers respond to the chance to act like smokers trying to quit?
Photo: Wrigley / AP