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Snack maker Hostess unveils caffeinated doughnuts as market for caffeine-spiked food heats up

(Hostess Brands)

Since seemingly the dawn of time, humans have enjoyed coffee with doughnuts.

Now, Hostess — maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos and Ding Dongs — is combining the two by creating caffeinated doughnuts.

The bakery giant’s Boost Jumbo Donettes, which the company plans to ship out this month, will come in two flavors — chocolate mocha and caramel macchiato. Each single-serving doughnut contains 50 to 70 milligrams of caffeine, a little less than the 80 to 100 milligrams in an eight-ounce cup of coffee.

“For adults who are increasingly looking for alternative sources of caffeine, our new Hostess Boost Jumbo Donettes offer a tasty, energy-boosting, grab-and-go way to jumpstart the day,” Christopher Balach, general manager of Hostess Brands, said in a statement.

What it took to save the Twinkie

Caffeine consumption has increased in recent decades, and consumers are getting it from more sources outside standbys such as coffee, tea and soda. Hostess is following other food companies looking to tap into that growing market by adding the stimulant to their food and drinks.

Researchers in 2014 determined that 85 percent of people in the United States consumed at least one caffeinated beverage a day, most typically coffee, tea or soda. Despite popping up on the market and making news, energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and 5-hour Energy made up a sliver of the market at the time .

But a study in 2019 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that energy-drink consumption in the United States “increased substantially” and that those who drank such beverages took in far more caffeine than those who didn’t. The study also hinted at a growing market among younger people.

“While the findings indicate that daily intake among adolescents and middle-aged adults may be leveling off and overall use across all groups is relatively limited, use by young adults continues to steadily rise.”

Over the past decade, companies have tried to cater to that increasing demand by selling everyday foods spiked with caffeine — potato chips, sunflower seeds, chocolate, maple syrup and beef jerky, to name a few. Cracker Jack started selling snack mixes with caffeine under the brand Cracker Jack’d Power Bites, The Washington Post reported in 2013.

“There’s a proliferation of foods; all kinds of things are now being caffeinated,” Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told NPR in 2012.

Slew of caffeinated food products has FDA jittery

Despite a seemingly timeless pairing, the marriage of coffee and doughnuts solidified after World War II. While selling a variety of food out of a fleet of 200 trucks, William Rosenberg noticed 40 percent of his sales came from only two products: pastries and coffee, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 1948, that led Rosenberg to open the Open Kettle in Quincy, Mass. Later renamed as Dunkin’ Donuts, the business would swell to about 1,000 shops across the country by the end of the 1970s. Today, there are more than 11,300 Dunkin’ locations worldwide, including some 8,500 in the United States, according to the company’s website.

Since doughnut shops were often the only businesses open in the wee hours, police officers were frequent patrons, looking to grab a bite and something to keep them awake through the graveyard shift, according to Time. In his autobiography, Rosenberg said he leaned into that dynamic, intentionally creating a welcoming atmosphere for officers so he would get a free police presence in return.

“Graveyard cops in the forties and fifties had few choices. They could pack lunch, pray for an all-night diner on their route or fill up on doughnuts,” Norm Stamper, former chief of the Seattle Police Department, said in the book “The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin” by Michael Krondl. “They were cheap and convenient.”

Recent market research shows that coffee is the dominant member of the pair, even in doughnuts’ eponymous businesses. In doughnut shops, people bought 2.1 billion servings of coffee compared to 805 million servings of doughnuts in a year-long period spanning 2018 and 2019, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.

“We are a nation of coffee drinkers and while we like our donuts too, we tend to be fueled by coffee and drink more of it,” David Portalatin, a food industry adviser for NPD Group, told Fox Business in 2020. “The takeaway for donut shops? If you serve good tasting coffee with your good tasting donuts, consumers will visit.”

Coffee with doughnuts?

Hostess is hoping consumers like its all-in-one offering.