U.S. retail sales of caffeinated foods have increased 49 percent since 2008, to $1.6 billion, and the FDA is finally considering regulations. A test of nine of the buzziest snack items on the market:
Cracker Jack’D Power Bites
$2.49 per bag
Frito-Lay’s (PEP) Cracker Jack’D line, launched earlier this year, includes Power Bites, a crunchy, cocoa-coated wafer made with ground coffee. The snacks are sold at Walmart (WMT), Walgreens (WAG), and convenience stores nationwide.
Caffeine per bag: Frito-Lay wouldn’t confirm the caffeine content, but reports say it’s 70 milligrams (just less than a shot of espresso).
99¢ per bag
These salted sunflower seeds, introduced in 2007 by Dakota Valley Products, not only are caffeinated but also contain the “energy components” taurine, ginseng, and lysine. The company plans to start selling Sumseeds in Canada this summer.
Caffeine per bag: 140 mg (almost a double shot of espresso)
$1.99 per box
First there were Crackheads, a chocolate-covered espresso candy introduced in 2004. Since 2008 there’s also been Crackheads2, which contains coffee beans and guarana seed extract, a potent source of the stimulant. At retailers wary of the suggestive name, Crackheads2 are sold under the name Jitterbeans.
Caffeine per box: 200 mg to 600 mg (2⅔ to eight espressos)
Bang!! Caffeinated Ice Cream
$4.99 per pint
In 2011, John Osmanski, the creator of Crackheads, started selling ice cream caffeinated with guarana seed extract in Wisconsin. Bang!! is available in four flavors—Peanut Butta, Heaps of Gold, Cooky Mint, and Iced Latté-Da—in grocery and convenience stores throughout the Midwest.
Caffeine per scoop: 125 mg (almost two espressos)
$11.99 per six-pack
Caffex, a New Jersey company that specializes in caffeinated snacks, offers jumbo-size, coffee-flavored marshmallows with espresso concentrate and added caffeine. The slightly bitter 1½-inch cubes, introduced in 2011, were available at Whole Foods (WFM) until May 2012. They’re now sold only online.
Caffeine per cube: 280 mg (almost four shots)
Jolt Energy Gum
$1.79 per pack
Jolt Energy Gum, which hit shelves in 2003, contains guarana. It takes about five minutes of chewing for the caffeine to take full effect, “which makes it about 5x faster than energy drinks or coffee,” according to the company’s website. Available in spearmint and icy mint, the gum is sold in convenience stores, on military bases, and online. Sales are in the low millions, according to GumRunners, which owns Jolt.
Caffeine per piece: 30 mg (2/5 of an espresso)
$4.99 per bag
Touted as an “action packed snack,” Perky Jerky is caffeinated with guarana extract. Founded in 2009, the company originally added 150 mg of caffeine per bag but reduced the amount after attracting attention from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About two-thirds of Perky Jerky consumers are women, and the turkey jerky (lower in calories, fat, and sodium) outsells beef three to one. Perky Jerky is sold online and at retailers including Target (TGT) and Home Depot (HD).
Caffeine per bag: 55 mg to 66 mg (almost a shot)
$2.50 per waffle
Wired Wyatt’s, based in Marysville, Wash., uses natural green coffee bean extract to energize its Wired Waffles. The company also makes caffeinated syrup with 42 mg of caffeine per tablespoon. The products are primarily sold online. Since October, when the company revamped the waffle recipe to reduce sugar, butter, and calories and add B vitamins, its sales have reached nearly $30,000.
Caffeine per waffle: 200 mg (almost three espressos)
Get Up And Go Fudgy Brownie
$3.33 per brownie
Get Up And Go, founded in 2012 by University of Michigan grads Chris Bogdan, 22, and Zach Rose, 25, makes caffeinated baked goods such as brownies, cookies, and muffins. The moist, fudgy brownies have natural caffeine extract. The Ann Arbor company is working on getting the goods distributed nationwide. “We’re trying to inspire people to get up and go do what they love,” Bogdan says.
Caffeine per brownie: about 200 mg (almost three espressos.)