Monday, May 20, 2013

Marketing Caffeine-Enriched Foods and Drinks

The regulatory and legislative environment for caffeine-enriched foods and beverages is evolving because of health concerns. Many such products are marketed through sponsorships of extreme sports and other activities that appeal to Millennials and other consumer segments. (Extreme Sport Beans, for instance, aren't snacks, they're designed as a caffeine jolt for endurance athletes.)

But the possibility that kids, in particular, will be attracted to extra-caffeinated foods/drinks through marketing (advertising, package/label design, image, brand associations, etc.) is a growing problem. Two weeks ago, Wrigley decided to temporarily stop making its newly-launched Alert Energy Caffeine Gum after FDA regulators raised serious safety concerns about the effect on kids, adolescents, and adults. As the product photo shows, one piece delivers the caffeine equivalent of half a cup of "high test" (non-decaf) coffee.

Wrigley's president told reporters: "After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation's food supply. There is a need for changes in the regulatory framework to better guide the consumers and the industry about the appropriate level and use of caffeinated products."

Wrigley is not alone in facing this changing marketing environment for extra-caffeine foods and beverages. Monster Beverage, which makes energy drinks containing caffeine, is battling San Francisco in court over allegations of marketing to youngsters, which Monster denies. Other jurisdictions, including Chicago and New York's Suffolk County, are considering how to deal with the potential marketing of caffeine-enriched foods and drinks to minors. Australia has even gone so far as to prevent the importation of caffeinated Dr Pepper and other non-cola, non-energy drinks that contain caffeine. The social-cultural environment, as a result, is also a factor. 

In the face of caffeinated foods like Wired Waffles and Cracker Jack'd Power Bites, the FDA is now rethinking how it regulates added-caffeine foods/drinks following dozens of reports about adverse reactions possibly linked to ingestion of energy "shots" and other super-caffeinated products.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports has tested commonly-available energy drinks, listed the level of caffeine in each, explained the health concerns, and sums things up this way: "An occasional energy drink is probably fine for most adults." Adults, not kids.

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