Make That a Double-Our desire for caffeinated 'energy' products is soaring
By Anna Kuchment
July 30, 2007 issue - A few years ago, it dawned on Zach Thomas that coffee didn't have enough caffeine. At the time, he was pulling all-nighters as a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point. By the time he became an instructor at the U.S. Army Ranger School in Fort Benning, Ga., he lived by a common saying at his school: "Sleep is a crutch." "I used to just drink a pot of coffee, but then you have to go to the bathroom 100 times during the day. If you could just get more caffeine in one cup, then that would be the best of both worlds," he says. In 2005 Thomas, now 30, founded Ranger Coffee, with a "hypercaffeinated" blend that contains double the caffeine of regular coffee, or about 300 milligrams per 12-ounce serving—the equivalent of six Diet Cokes. The small, Rockmart, Ga.-based company sells 1,700 bags of coffee a year, nearly half of them to troops stationed in Iraq.
These days you don't have to be a war hero to be a caffeine addict. Everywhere you look, people are wired on caffeine or touting its benefits—or both. Tabloids run images of celebrities sipping Red Bull or toting Starbucks venti lattes; Dunkin' Donuts ads feature a coffee-swilling Rachael Ray, who moves so fast she leaves tread marks on the floor. There's no shortage of ways to get your caffeine fix. Sales of energy drinks like Red Bull and Full Throttle have grown tenfold since 2001, and new ones enter the market weekly. Products that already have caffeine are adding more—in the past few months Diet Pepsi, Jolt and Mountain Dew have all rolled out extra-caffeinated versions. Novelty items, like caffeinated lip balm, caffeinated sunflower seeds, caffeinated beer and even caffeinated soap ("Tired of waking up and having to wait for your morning java to brew?") are also popping up in retail stores and nightclubs. In a spoof on this caffeine arms race, the site Energyfiend.com launched a "death by caffeine calculator" that shows a 180-pound adult would have to down 44 tall cups of Starbucks coffee before checking in to the big java house in the sky. See: America's Caffeine Addiction Keeps Growing