US firm Vitaball is gearing up to launch a caffeine-free energy tablet gum and gum ball that it claims gives it a distinct market position over its competitors.
The energy gum segment has overseen a slew of new launches in the past few year, most of which contain caffeine, but has suffered an image problem of late.
In May, gum leader Wrigley suspended production of its Alert Energy gum containing 40 mg of caffeine per piece as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an investigation on caffeine’s effect on children and adolescents.
Regis J. Nesbitt, VP of marketing & sales at Vitaball told ConfectioneryNews his firm’s new energy tablet gum and gum ball under its Vitamingum brand used B vitamins, l-carnitine, taurine and other active ingredients, instead of caffeine.
“That’s one of the big things about this new product. It’s a definite market position against everyone else.”
“Caffeine is a false energy level. It takes your blood pressure up then brings you down unless you keep consuming it.”
Chain driven US market
Vitaball is targeting every sales channel for its new gum, but Nesbitt conceded that his small firm faced an uphill struggle in most channels in the US.
“Here in the US is more difficult than international markets. The US is chain driven. There are only two major drug store chains: Walgreens and CVS,” he said.
Coupled with this, Mondelez and Wrigley dominate the gum market, and since gum is located in “prime retail space” by checkouts, retailers tend to opt for the major players.
“How are you supposed to get shelf space?” asked Nesbitt.
He added that his company had already been forced to price its existing vitamin-enriched gums at the same level as Wrigley 5 ($1.59 - $1.79) to stay competitive, which had an impact on margins.
He said that his firm was looking to less corporate driven retail markets such as Switzerland and to independent merchants, who often want unique products to differentiate themselves.
Other energy gums without caffeine
Number two gum firm Mondelez International has also used B-Vitamins to charge its Stride Spark Gum, which is fortified with B6, and B12 vitamins.
Confectioners are also supercharging gums with other ingredients used in energy drinks such as taurine, guarana extracts and botanicals.
Stiil a market for caffeinated gum?
However, some believe there is still a market for caffeinated gum.
Thomas Jahn, marketing manager for Fertin Pharma, which produces a private label energy gum with caffeine, said that caffeine gums tended to contain the same amount as a can of coke (34 mg for Coca Cola and 45 mg in Diet Coke).
He added that these gums gave a caffeine taste, but consumer feedback had indicated that people like to taste the active ingredient to know it is there.