- Mars Wrigley is relaunching a caffeine-enhanced gum that it first introduced in 2013, but pulled from shelves because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was about to study caffeine in foods, according to Food Navigator-USA. The FDA's efforts never materialized, and since this currently doesn’t seem to be an agency priority, Alert Gum is making a comeback.
- The brand’s name was updated from Alert Energy Gum in 2013 to the newly packaged and more clearly labeled Alert Caffeine Gum.
- According to the confectionery maker’s product materials, each piece of Alert Caffeine Gum includes 40mg of caffeine, or about the same amount as a half a cup of coffee, one 12-ounce can of soda or a half of an 8-ounce energy drink.
Move over Juicy Fruit and Doublemint — as well as Starbucks and Red Bull, for that matter. Mars Wrigley is providing consumers with an alternative way to get a quick jolt without the cup or can.
U.S. gum sales declined 4% in the first half of 2017, according to IRI data reported by Food Navigator-USA. While Wrigley dominates the category by a wide margin — owning 72% share — IRI data shows that it’s losing market share in sugarless gum to the likes of Hershey and Concord Confections. It makes sense that Wrigley would want to introduce some innovative new products or reinvigorate existing ones.
Alert targets on-the-go adults looking for a portable caffeine fix. Information on the brand’s dedicated website states, “Alert Caffeine Gum is best chewed when you’re looking for a pick-me-up during your day, whether that’s on your morning commute, to combat an afternoon slump, before you hit the gym, or on your way to a meet up with friends.”
The product handily fits in pockets and purses, and can go “where caffeinated beverages cannot, providing a boost without cups, cans or carbonation,” the website states. Product marketing materials and packaging specifically indicate that “Alert is to be used by adults, and is not intended for children under 18, pregnant and nursing women, or people sensitive to caffeine.”
No laws, however, are currently in place to regulate the gum’s distribution or sale to minors. Consequently, the potential for the product to cause health risks due to overconsumption or misuse by minors should be of concern to both Mars Wrigley as well as other manufacturers considering caffeine-enhanced products. Additionally, the introduction’s timing seems a bit off, given the confectionery maker’s May announcement of health and well-being initiatives in collaboration with the Partnership for a Healthier America.
The company assures consumers that it did its homework regarding potential health risks and consequences. According to information provided on the brand’s website, independent experts — including the Mayo Clinic — suggest a caffeine daily intake of 400mg is safe for most adults. With each piece of Alert Caffeine Gum containing 40mg of caffeine, this means chewing more than 10 pieces a day gives way to potentially dangerous levels of consumption. For avid gum-chewers or kids, this doesn’t seem like much.
Mars Wrigley has its work cut out to educate consumers about the use and potential risks associated with the new product. The company should pump substantial marketing dollars into a campaign designed to spread the word through offline and online advertising and promotions, in-store signage and product packaging.
Company execs have said they think they're already doing their part.
“We’ve put a tremendous amount of marketing energy into the product, but also communicating a responsible message of caffeine consumption,” Michelle Green, senior manager of global confectionery category and brand communications at Mars Wrigley, told Confectionery News.
It remains to been seen whether Mars Wrigley has a hit or miss on their hands. Still, the reintroduction of Alert Caffeine Gum likely opens the doors for other manufacturers to follow suit and explore caffeine-enhanced products of their own. Other smaller entrants already on the market include Java Gum and Jolt Energy Gum and Energy Mints.