When it comes to caffeine, could less be more?
- Chicago-based beverage startup Tempo has developed a line of sparkling teas that deliver "micro-doses" of caffeine to give consumers a wave of energy without a crash, according to Food Navigator. Company co-founder Austin Gallagher told the publication that by providing a dosage of 20 mg to 60 mg of caffeine, rather than the 150 mg to 180 mg found in many energy drinks and ready-to-drink coffees, its formula "improves cognitive function, alertness and reaction speed over time."
- Tempo Sparkling Tea is available in "revitalizing and mellow" green tea with 30 mg of caffeine per serving and "bold and uplifting" black tea with 40 mg of caffeine per serving. The teas also were designed to slow the body's absorption of caffeine to around half the rate of coffee in order to deliver the "desired productivity boosts throughout the day."
- "It is like a caffeine arms race right now ... but you can't just overload your system and keep throwing more in there and think it will give you a better cognitive performance. That is not how the brain works and not how the body works," co-founder Ryan Crane told Food Navigator.
As work schedules for consumers become increasingly hectic, many shoppers are reaching for ready-to-drink coffee, energy drinks and tea with caffeine levels that pack a punch. To meet this demand and stand out in the crowded beverage aisle, drink manufacturers are racing to develop formulas brimming with the energy-inducing ingredient.
Many beverage makers are centering their branding around their sky-high caffeine levels. Death Wish coffee's product packaging, for example, sports a skull and cross bones along with a label that deems it "the world's strongest coffee." The product delivers an average of 728 mg of caffeine per 12 ounce serving — or 200% more caffeine than the average dark roast coffee. And while this is certainly an extreme instance of caffeine-focused branding, mainstream coffee companies are using similar tactics.
Last year, Maxwell House launched a coffee line called Max Boost that offers products with different levels of caffeine to let consumers customize their caffeine experience. The caffeine buzz isn't limited to coffee products, either — sparkling water makers are also giving their products a jolt of energy to entice consumers. This tactic is a savvy one, as nearly two-thirds of adults said still or sparkling water is one of their preferred drinks, followed by coffee at 62%, according to the International Bottled Water Association. Drinks given a caffeine punch have been around for decades, perhaps highlighted by Jolt Cola which debuted in the mid-1980s using the slogan "All the sugar, twice the caffeine."
But this cross-category trend — and general consumer demand for more caffeine in a variety of vehicles — makes Tempo's value proposition of "microdoses" of caffeine an interesting one. While the product's formula seems to ignore consumer desire for more caffeine, growing interest in health-conscious, clean label foods and beverages by shoppers could make them more receptive to this concept.
It would be wise for the company to heavily market the fact that its teas deliver a pick-me-up without the crash, as well as its organic status and the risks of traditional caffeine-packed drinks. If this resonates with consumers, perhaps other coffee makers — especially established players — could develop similar products.
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