The other day I made a quick stop at my neighborhood dollar store to pick up some supplies for my daughter’s birthday party. At the check-out, I spotted a weird red canister with some familiar imagery. It was an Altoids-like container of mints from Ed Hardy, makers of much of the clothing you see douchebags wearing.
Why would Ed Hardy make mints? Because these mints — King Dog Energy Mints — have a little extra party juice in them. They are “intensely caffeinated”; five mints equal (according to the packaging) a cup of coffee. (Having tried them, I can attest to those numbers.)
I’d heard of such caffeinated mints before and I’d also been reading about other items becoming available that contain caffeine, but not in its typical form. Wrigley’s will soon be the first major gum corporation to sell caffeine gum, Alert Energy, which is due in stores this month. And, though I was unable to find any, Frito-Lay has issued a lineup of juiced-up caramel treats under the name “Cracker Jack’d.” The collection includes caffeinated snacks called “Power Bites.” One 2 oz. pack of the Vanilla Mocha version is equal to one cup of coffee, according to the packaging.
Health and safety groups continue to take aim at energy drinks and shots, complaining that they are overdosed with caffeine and a danger to kids. There have been deaths that are being investigated for being caused by Monster energy drinks and 5-hour Energy shots, while Four Loko (the energy drink with an alcohol kick) was forced to eliminate the “upper” ingredients in 2010, after it was banned in many states.
Like coffee or soda, all of these caffeinated foods can be risky if overdone. They’re definitely not for kids or pregnant women.
When the Cracker Jack’d snacks were announced, the food consumer rights group The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a statement saying, “Unless the FDA begins enforcing its regulations, I fear that we’ll see caffeine being added to ever-more improbable drinks and snacks, putting children, unsuspecting pregnant women and others at risk.”
“How soon before we have caffeinated burgers, burritos or breakfast cereals?”
I’d say pretty soon. I hit a few grocery stores to find non-drinkable, edible “energy products” and was half-shocked so many seemed like something kids would get into … and half-shocked that there weren’t more items with a jolt.
Almonds and other foods with protein are a good natural energy boost, but Blue Diamond Almonds has taken it a step further with its coffee-coated nuts. The Roasted Coffee-flavored Coffee Almonds taste sweet and a little chocolaty — easy to sit and mindlessly gobble handfuls at a time and go into a caffeine spin-out (like I do with chocolate-covered espresso beans). On the back of the 10 oz. package, consumers are told just “one delicious ounce” is equivalent to 2 oz. of coffee.
You know those Listerine strips that dissolve on your tongue so you don’t smell like you just feasted on dog poo? There’s now a product called “Energy Sheets” that does the same thing, but with pep power. The recommended dosage is 1-3 minty strips every three hours, depending on how jacked up you want to be. Like a lot of these products, Energy Sheets play up the “natural” ingredients (B12, Vitamin E, etc.) that help energy levels. Still, there are 50 mgs of caffeine anhydrous, a powdered version often used in weight loss pills — though the Sheets are clearly marketed to those “suffering” from fatigue.
My last find is the kind of product that makes the CSPI go nuts due to it being fairly easily confused for candy that kids might absentmindedly eat. Jelly Belly — yes, the same Jelly Belly that makes jelly beans for kids of all ages — has a line of “Sports Beans” that promises “Quick energy for sports performance” and contain electrolytes, vitamins and sugar, but, unless it’s hidden in some other ingredient, no caffeine. The instructions make it clear that these are performance-enhancing jelly beans intended to give you an advantage at sports (you are to take one full pack of about a dozen beans before activity, pop some as needed while participating and have a pack to replenish afterwards). The beans come in typical jock flavors — lemon-lime, orange, fruit punch and berry.
The Sports Beans (like the Energy Sheets) were located near the weight loss and muscle-building section of the supermarket, not the candy aisle, which could be the way corporations best work around cries that they are putting kids in danger. They’re kind of near the sex-life enhancement products. Which would you rather answer for your kid — “Why can’t I have this pack of jelly beans?” or, “What’s a Trojan Vibrating Twister?”
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: firstname.lastname@example.org or @CityBeatMusic