The candy industry is rolling out new sweets packed with more than just sugar.
Buzz-inducing candy, spiked with caffeine and, often, vitamins, are the low-growth, $29 billion U.S. candy, gum and chocolate industry's answer to surging competition from energy drinks. And just like those beverages, the caffeine-infused candy often sports a controversial name that critics say evokes illegal drugs.
Last month, Mars Inc. introduced Snickers Charged, a version of the candy bar with a cup-of-coffee's worth of caffeine, plus B vitamins and amino acids, ingredients typically found in energy drinks. Jelly Belly Candy Co. has come out with Extreme Sport Beans, which are caffeinated and contain electrolytes, compounds beneficial for hydration, while Hershey Co. has launched caffeine-enhanced Ice Breakers Energy mints. Along with Jolt mints and gum, Buzz Bites, Foosh Mints, Crackheads chocolate-covered espresso beans and several others, these products make up a burgeoning "energy candy" category.
The new products are appearing as the candy industry is losing part of its most bankable audience -- kids. There were 3.3% fewer kids age 6 to 11 in 2007 as in 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales of sugar confectionary dropped by 4% from 2001 to 2006, while energy-drink sales rose by more than 400% to $3.23 billion in the period, according to market researcher Mintel.
Fears of obesity and diabetes also are cutting into consumption. Last year, candy and snack companies including Mars, Cadbury Adams USA, a unit of Cadbury Schweppes PLC, and Hershey signed a pledge drafted by the Better Business Bureau in which they agreed to stop marketing their products to children under the age of 12.
Caffeinated candies present some challenges for makers, chief among them disguising the inherently bitter taste of caffeine in a sugary morsel.