A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Wall Street Journal ‘stimulus plan for candy,’ focusing on the jolt-n-crash “caffeine candy bars” flooding the retail mix to join energy drinks and the even more mind-boggling stupidity stunts in the ‘shock schlock’ realm of drug-look-alike kiddie cocaine.
(As if kids aren’t jacked up enough with twitch games and rapid-fire media, let’s add a dose of sugar and caffeine, woohoo!)
If you’ve been reading Shaping Youth for awhile, you’re well aware of my disdain for marketing copious quantities of addictive substances (pink cigarettes, internet porn, alcopops, caffeine, girly cigs, junk food, and coy drug paraphernalia behavioral cues) packaged in ‘aspirational’ urban wannabe mode to mirror the gangstah/misogynistic slang in hip-hop/rap lyrics.
Not saying caffeine falls into the “chemical evolution revolution” in quite the same manner, just that when I look at the plethora of products and industry’s ‘outreach’ and cues to kids, I can’t help but mumble the ad cliché, ‘whasssssup’ with dat?
Do kids need to be lit up with every shape and form of caffeinated candy concoctions from Frappuccinos to Pepp Energy Gum, Jones Energy Boosters (soda knock-off) Diablo Energy Strips, Snickers Charged, Buzz Bites and Jelly Belly ‘Extreme Sports Beans’ so kids can become ‘fat and wired’ simultaneously?
As the WSJ reported “…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.” Then there’s that pesky concern about diabetes and childhood obesity putting a crimp in candy profits…
So what’s a marketer to do? Why, jump on the caffeine/’energy’ trend-escalation via replication in ‘stay with whatever works’ mode of course…kind of like the entertainment industry coming out with a remake or a sequel instead of being inventive and fresh. argh.
Here’s an interesting article about trends and peer influence via social networking on Edge (a great über-thinker site) which delves deep into the dynamics of why human beings ‘catch on’ to peer phenom even when not in close physical proximity…
Their data purports we can “catch” obesity, altruism, even behavioral goals (like smoking-cessation) by using “viral” social media. —If so, let’s shift that phenom away from toxic cues toward healthy pursuits in a viral-marketing sneeze-fest!
Why not use the power of viral/peer influencers in the social media realm toward POSITIVE pursuits rather than creating a new category of “energy candy?”
Yah, I know, profit over public health.” Kids are once again ‘sold off’ in a short-term make-a-buck mindset. But let’s look at this from a trend-tracking perspective…
Kids are star-struck by Starbucks coolness caché (the recent 3-hour ‘planned business closure’ created news media ‘humorous buzz’ in itself, eh?) and already, after school “snacks” have veered toward ‘Frappuccinos’ as corner cafes become hangouts for teen urbanista barristas.
In low income/high risk obesity environs, kids spend money they don’t have on these kinds of pricey treats, and we’ve even seen them carry and fill branded ‘cups’ with water if they can’t afford the mocha concoction itself…Wild.
I figured it was high time I tap Shaping Youth’s nutrition correspondent in Washington D.C., health blogger Rebecca Scritchfield to dissect and analyze the content/outcomes of what all this caffeine MEANS in the mind and body of preteen youth…and weigh out the pros and cons of the substance as a whole. We’ll hear from Rebecca tomorrow…
Until we can understand the motivators and health issues in play, we can’t counter-market effectively…
Even though studies show in grades 7-9 kids could wind up laggin’ due to interrupted sleep patterns, and Starbucks’ calories and fat factor alone are enough to add to the kids’ obesity quotient (e.g. 750- calories in a Venti Strawberries & Créme Frappuccino; 140 calories from fat; 15 grams–a huge portion of kids’ DV intake, equating to a shake a day!) kids and adults are swiggin’ it down.
Join us for a keen eye on the kids’ caffeine hype-o-meter along with the ‘how much is too much’ question of kids’ caffeine slipping into yogurt, cereal, soft drinks and more. Don’t miss the must-read Edge treatise, “Social Networks are Like the Eye: A talk with Nicholas A. Christakis” which will give you a feel for why behavioral influences DO matter…whether media, marketing or peer.
Sound off…We want to hear how YOU feel about young kids’ caffeine intake and the marketing of ‘mini-adults?’
Have marketing/media infiltrated your world where kids are charged on sports and energy drinks, coffee lattes, or caffeine candy?
We’ve all heard tales of ‘exam cram-n-slam’ caffeine binges, but that seemed to be at the collegiate level vs. middle-school midterms…
What ages and stages does ‘moderation’ come into play?
High schoolers? Teens? Tweens?
What about Europe’s cafe culture? How are kids’ caffeine cues shifting over there? Fill us in on caffeine culture in other parts of the world…
Meanwhile…stay tuned for our nutritional breakdown tomorrow. The anticipated message from yours truly to kids and adults on the intake of caffeine media/marketing?
Be alert, naturally.
Resources/Caffeine Candy Facts per the Wall Street Journal Sampling:
WSJ: Caffeine Candy Taste Test
“Eight WSJ reporters and editors gathered at 4 p.m. — when many folks typically run out for a cup of coffee — to taste a range of energy candies.
Intake was monitored to make sure no one had more than about 300 mgs — about the amount in two 8-ounce cups of strong coffee. Here are the results of our tasting. — Katy McLaughlin (See related article.)”
Buzz Bites: A 6-gram chocolate chew; $3.49 for six-piece tin
Caffeine: 100 mg per chew
Other energy ingredients: B-vitamins, ginseng, taurine
Reaction: Tasters universally panned the gummy, teeth-sticking chewiness; some complained of a lingering, bitter aftertaste.
Company response: Vroom Foods’ President Jason Kensey says “our customers realize that the Buzz Bites aren’t going to taste like Godiva.”
Snickers Charged: Slightly smaller than a regular Snickers, but otherwise very similar; $0.65 per bar
Caffeine: 60 mg
Other energy ingredients: Taurine, B-vitamins
Reaction: Tasters all said it tasted just like a regular Snickers bar at first bite, then complained of a long, bitter aftertaste.
Company response: “We didn’t change the recipe at all, except for the addition of the energy additives. It is a Snickers bar people are very familiar with but adding that energy boost,” says Mars spokesman Ryan Bowling.
Ice Breakers Energy: Regular-sized mints in a small tin; $1.99
Caffeine: 10 mg per mint
Other energy ingredients: None
Reaction: Some tasters found it “medicinal,” but others said it tasted like a regular mint.
Company Response: “The product tested extremely well with consumers interested in energy mints,” says Hershey’s spokesman Kirk Saville.
Crackheads: White- and dark-chocolate covered espresso beans; $1.99 for 1.3 ounces
Caffeine: Roughly 120 mg per box
Reaction: Tasters generally felt they were a good version of the classic chocolate-covered bean.
Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans: 1-ounce packs of jelly beans; $0.99
Caffeine: 50 mg per pack
Other energy ingredients: Electrolytes, B and C vitamins
Reaction: Most tasters likened them to regular jelly beans, though a couple detected bitter, “cough medicine” notes.
Company response: “These aren’t meant to be candy. It’s a sports performance product,” says marketing director Rob Swaigen.
JOLT gum: 12-piece blister pack of gum tablets; $1.59 to $1.79
Caffeine: 75 mg in two tablets
Other energy ingredients: Guarana and ginseng
Reaction: Some tasters liked it enough to consider buying some, while others complained of bitter aftertaste that gets worse the longer it is chewed.
Company response: “Jolt tastes far better than any other energy gum and is on parity with some mainstream, ordinary gums,” says company co-founder Kevin Gass.
Foosh Mints: Large mints in a 12-piece tin; $3.49
Caffeine: 100 mg per mint
Other energy ingredients: B-vitamins, ginseng, taurine
Reaction: “As strong as an Altoid,” said a few tasters. One objected to the “horsepill” size, others to a grainy texture.
Company response: Reorders are commonplace, indicating that many consumers like the product, says maker Vroom Foods.
Starbucks’ Kids Moo Cute Graphic: PinkLaine Flickr Photos
Buzz Bites Chocolate Energy Chew: The Impulsive Buy
Starbucks Frappucino: Google Images via QXL.dk (don’t EVEN attempt to ask me what that site name means!)
Crackheads: The Candy Addict
Jelly Belly Extreme Sports Beans: ACSM.org
Viral Webmap: Go Viral.com