UPDATE: Wrigley Takes Alert Energy Gum Off Market

Published in CSP Daily News

Talks with FDA prompted voluntary temporary action

UPDATE: Susan Smith, spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association (NCA), told CSP Daily News: "NCA is joining in food industry outreach to FDA to discuss further the addition of caffeine to food products.  We support clear labeling of caffeine content, but understand FDA’s concerns.  We feel that the amount of caffeine consumed from candy and gum overall is significantly less than coffee and other caffeinated beverages, but understand that FDA will want to examine this and  other information."

CHICAGO -- In one of the first major signs that increased U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of caffeinated products could have a significant effect on current products on the market and future product development, Wrigley North America made the bold and expensive move of "pause the production, sales and marketing" of its Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, which it launched with great fanfare in March.

Alert gum was expected to be a major focus of Wrigley's display at the National Confectioners Association's 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo next week in Chicago. Halting production on the product meant pulling advertising in publications while filling the space the brand had already earned on retailers' shelves.

The FDA is watching closely the marketing of a growing number of caffeine-enhanced food products on the market and wants to know more about their safety. The agency said in late April that it will look at the foods' effects on children in part in response to the introduction of Wrigley's Alert gum.

"After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation's food supply," Casey Keller, president of Wrigley North America, said in a statement provided to CSP Daily News. "There is a need for changes in the regulatory framework to better guide the consumers and the industry about the appropriate level and use of caffeinated products. In an effort to support this process, and out of respect for the FDA, we have paused the production, sales and marketing of Alert. This will give the FDA time to develop a new regulatory framework for the addition of caffeine to food and drinks."

But he defended the product itself. "When Wrigley launched Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, we took great strides to ensure that the product was formulated, distributed and marketed in a safe and responsible way to consumers 25 years old and over," said Keller. "We exceeded all regulatory requirements on labeling and disclosure because we believe consumers should be informed about the amount of caffeine they are consuming in their food and beverage products so they can make smart choices."

Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner of foods, said Wrigley's decision to stop production for now "demonstrates real leadership and commitment to the public health," according to an Associated Press report. "We hope others in the food industry will exercise similar restraint."

Click here to view the FDA's page on added caffeine.

Chicago-based Wrigley is a leader in confections with a wide range of product offerings including gum, mints, hard and chewy candies, and lollipops. Wrigley's brands include Extra, Orbit, Doublemint and 5 chewing gums, as well as confectionery brands Skittles, Starburst, Altoids and Life Savers. It operates as a subsidiary of Mars Inc., McLean, Va.

Mars has net sales of more than $30 billion and six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks and Symbioscience. Mars brands include Chocolate: M&M's, Snickers, Dove, Galaxy, Mars, Milky Way and Twix; Petcare: Pedigree, Whiskas, Sheba, Cesar and Royal Canin; Wrigley: Orbit, Extra, Starburst, Doublemint and Skittles; Food: Uncle Ben's, Dolmio, Ebly, Masterfoods and Seeds of Change; Drinks: Alterra Coffee Roasters, The Bright Tea Co., Klix and Flavia; and Symbioscience: Seramis, Cirku and Cocoavia.