Wrigley pulls its new caffeine gum from market
After debuting with warning labels, Alert gets yanked 'out of respect for' the FDA, which is taking a closer look at the whole category.
It seemed like another sign of the times when Wrigley introduced a caffeinated gum last month. After all, consumers can already buy caffeine-boosted drinks like Jolt Cola, energy bursts like Monster Beverages' (MNST) products and even jelly beans.
But now Wrigley is temporarily pulling its Alert gum from store shelves "out of respect for" the Food and Drug Administration, The Associated Press reports. The decision comes after the Mars-owned gum company had discussions with the agency.
The move may be just the tip of the caffeinated iceberg, however. It turns out all those laced food products -- such as potato chips and water -- have drawn the FDA's attention. The government agency plans to review the safety of caffeine in food products, especially regarding how they affect children and teens.
Wrigley designed Alert to appeal to an older crowd, as reported here in March. A pack sold for about $3, or about twice the cost of regular gum, and Alert has a bitter taste, which one Wrigley executive said children wouldn't enjoy.
One piece of the hexagonal gum contains 40 milligrams of caffeine, while a tall cup of Starbucks (SBUX) coffee delivers a jolt of 260 milligrams, according to data from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Wrigley rolled out the new gum as a way to juice up sales, which declined 2.7% last year.
The proliferation of caffeine in food products has been decried by the CSPI, which lobbies for healthier eating and has targeted Alert for criticism. "You can start the day with caffeinated waffles and syrup and have caffeinated marshmallows as a snack and a coffee later," Executive Director Michael Jacobson complained to the The Wall Street Journal in March.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that caffeinated sports drinks and energy drinks "have no place in the diet of children and adolescents."
"After discussions with the FDA," Wrigley President Casey Keller told the AP, "we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation's food supply."
Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.
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