Wrigley Pulls Alert Caffeinated Gum in Face of FDA Pressure

Move Deals Blow to Company Trying to Energize Sluggish Category

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Wrigley's new Alert caffeinated gum was getting prominent display near the cash register at a 7-Eleven in downtown Chicago today. It won't be there -- or anywhere else -- much longer.

The company said Wednesday it was taking the gum off the market temporarily in the face of concerns by the Food and Drug Administration, the Associated Press reported.

"After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation's food supply," Wrigley North America President Casey Keller said in a statement to the AP. "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."

According to the AP report, Wrigley characterized the move as a temporary measure "to give the agency time to regulate caffeine-added products."

The move comes after the FDA last month said it would investigate added caffeine in products for health safety. Wrigley's ad agency is Energy BBDO.

A Wrigley spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Ad Age about the status of marketing efforts on the new brand. Traditional advertising had not yet hit the airwaves.

However temporary, the halt is a blow to Wrigley, coming just as it was building distribution on the brand, which was unleashed as the marketer seeks to energize the sluggish gum category. All gum brands have suffered in recent months. Just this week, Mondelez International, whose brands include Trident, signaled it would begin putting more emphasis on so-called functional benefits on its products, such as oral care. "We are not counting on a significant turnaround in gum this year," CEO Irene Rosenfeld told analysts. "But let me assure you we are not sitting idly by and accepting these trends."

The FDA's concern comes as a growing number of packaged foods brands are hitting the market with caffeinated products, ranging from Kraft Foods Group's Mio "energy" drink flavoring product to Jelly Belly's "Extreme Sport Beans."

The FDA's only explicit approval on added caffeine for food was for cola in the 1950s. "Today, the environment has changed," the agency said when it launched its review last month. "Children and adolescents may be exposed to caffeine beyond those foods in which caffeine is naturally found and beyond anything FDA envisioned when it made the determination regarding caffeine in cola. For that reason, FDA is taking a fresh look at the potential impact that the totality of new and easy sources of caffeine may have on the health of children and adolescents, and if necessary, will take appropriate action."

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