Mars-owned Wrigley is to launch an energy chewing gum with the caffeine equivalent of half a cup of coffee in each piece but one analyst says the product misses the key youth market and could prove a lawsuit hazard.
Alert Energy Caffeine Gum will be rolled out in the US in April this year in 8-piece blister sleeve packs.
Wrigley is calling the product a “portable solution [for adults] that lets them control their caffeine intake”.
Lawsuit in the making?
Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight for Mintel Food and Drink, told ConfectioneryNews.com: “The energy component means that the company is forced to keep this out of the hands of kids and teens.”
She said this could prove problematic and pointed to a number of US lawsuits about the alleged harm from energy drinks.
“Think of all the teens who drink Red Bull and other energy drinks, and all the preteens who love extreme candy (sour, bitter etc). Will the bitter taste keep them away? This could end up being a problem for the product in the US.”
According to Mintel, the biggest portion of gum users in the US are teens and adults aged 18-24.
“While Wrigley may have found a way into the new ‘meta-category’ of energy foods, the restrictive parameters it must keep on the launch to avoid challenges from regulatory agencies mean that it cannot leverage gum’s strongest demographic,” added Mongelonsky.
Each piece of Wrigley’s Alert gum contains 40mg of caffeine, about half a cup of coffee’s worth. Wrigley says the product is not recommended for children.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the average adult has an intake of 200mg of caffeine per day, which is around the recommended amount.
Wrigley’s new gum is sugar free and uses a mix of sweeteners including sorbitol maltitol, glycerol, sucralose and aspartame-acesulfame.
"We believe that having Wrigley's finally entering the game is a great opportunity for raising the general awareness of this category. This category is a rising star however not all of its actors can be compared. You may find actors ranging from 7mg of caffeine per gum up to 100mg. The amount of caffeine is what 'boosts' the consumer; however putting too much caffeine may mean increasing the bitterness if you do not control well the flavors. Choosing 40mg, like Wrigley's did, is a conservative move towards the taste but it will jeopardize the 'boost' delivered. Side ingredients are also different; aspartame remains widely used same as artificial antioxidants such as BHA or BHT. L.A.Fuel decided to protect the health of consumer by banning these ingredients."
It is not the company’s first foray into energy gum having developed Stay Alert Gum in 1997, which it licenses to Marketright Inc. That gum, which is sold to the US Military, will change its name to Military Energy Gum to avoid confusion with Wrigley’s new product, said Mongelonsky.
Other caffeine gums
The leading gum company will not be alone in the energy marketplace, with a number of smaller firms offering their own caffeinated gums.
Czech-based firm Los Angeles Industries produces a 7-piece xylitol-sweetened gum called L.A.Fuel . Each piece carries 25mg taurine and 100mg of caffeine.
US firm GumRunners produces a caffeinated gum called Jolt Gum . It claims two pieces contains the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee (about 80mg).
Another US firm X8 Energy Gum has a product by the same name that contains 50mg of caffeine. The product is sugar-free and uses a patented dual layer compression technology to incorporate a blend of B-Vitamins.
According to the analyst, gum enhanced with energy ingredients is also available in a number of other countries including South Africa (Energum, from Grace Pharmaceuticals) and Japan (Lotte Engine X-tra Speed Energy Gum).
Mongelonsky said that none of the products from smaller firms had had any great success as a "gum" product.
What about Mondelez?
Wrigley’s main rival Mondelez International, which has reported gum sale declines, has a gum containing B-6 and a B-12 vitamin called Stride Spark, but has no caffeinated gum on the market.
Asked if energy gum could be the answer the Mondelez’s gum troubles, Mongelonsky said: “I don't think energy gum will help them solve their gum crisis - it isn't going to do much for Wrigley either - price, taste and efficacy will all be issues.”