More Than One Way to Jolt a Dolt
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Caffeinated potato chips.
Caffeinated soap.[an error occurred while processing this directive]
What's next, caffeinated lip balm?
Well, yes: It's called Spazzstick.
It seems the 85 to 150 milligrams of caffeine in an eight-ounce cup of brewed morning joe isn't enough.
Blame it on high-carb lunches and/or inertia at the job, or maybe the fact that naps are socially unacceptable. Whatever's at fault, marketers have found ways to make caffeine delivery systems more creative and varied. Coffee, tea and chocolate remain mainstays, but in the past few years "energized" soft drinks have encroached on their market share. Now entire sections of the supermarket are given over to juiced-up (but juice-free) beverages, many of them aimed at kids. (See "Buzz's Buzzes" at right.)
There are now many ways to get caffeine without drinking it. New caffeinated products claim to reward those who ingest them -- or, in the case of soap, absorb them -- with an immediate boost akin to consuming a cup of coffee or more.
But do they work? And can our bodies take the extra jolt?
The short answers: Yes, and yes, though the temptation is to violate the recommended dosage and go for broke. At least that's what I did when I sampled a few of these products to gauge their effects. (And who better to do that than someone named Buzz?)
The manufacturers supplied some of the samples, but the bulk of the products came from ThinkGeek, an eight-year-old Fairfax City-based catalog of merchandise aimed at cubical-confined folks who know Unix from Linux. There's an entire section devoted to all things caffeine, from clothing that celebrates it -- a hoodie emblazoned with the caffeine molecule, for instance -- to mugs, key chains and, of course, food and beverage products.
"A lot of our [caffeine] customers are programmers, coders, IT guys," says Jennifer Kuropkat, ThinkGeek's manager of marketing and new business development. "IT guys tend to get on a roll with coding and stay up really late." As do gamers, who stay up playing against online opponents. "Really, though," adds Kuropkat, "it's anybody who needs that extra jolt. And anything new we can get, our customers are very eager to have."
Such customers would include me, the early riser who invariably feels the need to lie down after lunch. Or ingest two ounces of espresso. As I began downing these new heart-pounding goodies, I wondered whether I was taking on an assignment that might, you know, hurt me somehow.