Wrigley's new gum comes with a warning label

Caffeine-laced Alert will try to scare kids away and will cost twice as much as normal gum. But can it give gum sales a buzz?

By Aimee Picchi Mar 8, 2013 2:07PM

Wrigley Alert Energy Caffeine Gum (© Courtesy of Wrigley)Wrigley wants to burst the bubble of the energy drink industry. 

The chewing gum giant, owned by private candy maker Mars, is rolling out a caffeinated product called Alert that will bear a warning label to scare off kids and those with sensitivities to the stimulant, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The gum will also cost about $3, or twice as much as a regular pack. Each pack will include eight pieces of hexagonal-shaped gum containing 40 milligrams of caffeine each. By comparison, a tall cup of Starbucks (SBUX) coffee includes 260 milligrams of the stimulant, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

That group, which advocates for healthy eating and food safety, isn't all that keen on the new gum. Executive Director Michael Jacobson decried the proliferation of caffeine-laced foods and drinks. "You can start the day with caffeinated waffles and syrup and have caffeinated marshmallows as a snack and a coffee later," Jacobson complained to the Journal. 

But given the description of Alert, it's unlikely to become consumers' go-to choice. That's because it has a bitter, medicinal flavor, which may mean only die-hard caffeine nuts in need of a buzz are likely to unwrap a package. 

"If you come at this as a piece of gum that you chew for enjoyment it's not going to deliver on that," Wrigley President Casey Keller told the Journal. "Kids won't like the taste."

That may keep Alert from challenging energy drinks such as Monster Beverage (MNST) or 5-Hour Energy, but Wrigley says it's targeting consumers who want to control their caffeine intake. Energy drinks have come under fire for potentially causing health problems, as examined by my colleague Jason Notte.

Wrigley's new product comes as U.S. chewing gum sales have fallen flat. Last year, they declined 2.7% to $3.5 billion as prices increased and consumers were overwhelmed by new flavors. 

Alert also isn't the first caffeinated gum, and the category doesn't have a strong track record. PepsiCo (PEP) introduced AMP, a chewing gum that included caffeine and vitamins, but discontinued it in 2010. 

And Wrigley already makes a caffeinated gum called Stay Alert, which contains 100 milligrams of caffeine. While it's marketed to soldiers who are battling exhaustion, the gum can also be bought on Amazon.com (AMZN), where it receives high marks from consumers for helping them stay awake. Its taste, though, is another issue. 

Noted one reviewer: "Easily the most effective (if least pleasant-tasting) form of caffeine I've ever ingested."

--Aimee Picchi owns shares of PepsiCo but hasn't traded the stock in over 12 months.

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Mar 8, 2013 4:12PM
Doesn't seem this would catch on, considering the article says it has bitter, medicinal flavor, and previous caffeine gum attempts have failed. 
Mar 8, 2013 4:48PM
I don't buy energy drinks and won't be buying this gum either.
Mar 8, 2013 5:34PM

I wish they'd have left...."a good thing alone"...I used to chew Wrigleys all my life until the past few years.  There is something being added that makes my mouth fill with blisters and takes the hide off of my jaws...eats holes into my jaws sometimes.  I've tried every kind and have had to give up chewing gum. Toothpaste is doing the same thing.  It's somekind of additives I'm sure in all this stuff that causes who knows what.  I have had to completely stop using gums and have only ONE toothpaste I can use without a reaction.  Gum DON'T need caffeine in it...for goodness sake....can't we for once think of the "humans" that are ingestine it and what it might do.....instead of the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR!


Mar 8, 2013 5:18PM

"bitter medicinal flavor?" I can't wait!


And the French wonder why we drink Dr. Pepper for the same reason...

Mar 8, 2013 8:54PM
You can always mix in some cannabis gum for a poor man's speed ball.
Mar 8, 2013 5:23PM
If it contains caffeine, promotes fresh breath, cleans & whitens teeth -I'd buy it!
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