It's no secret that caffeine is the lifeblood of America, and companies have been quick to capitalize on the "keeping you awake" trend by infusing a host of unlikely products with the perky, if sometimes controversial, stimulant. (See: Monster Energy, 5-Hour Energy.) From Cracker Jacks to soap to unsuspecting pairs of trousers, here is a brief list of caffeine collaborations you might not have known existed:
1. Cracker Jacks
The ballpark favorite made headlines last week when manufacturer Frito-Lay unveiled a new caffeine-infused version of the sticky-sweet snack: Cracker Jack'd. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) immediately slammed the product as a potential danger to kids, saying it exemplifies "a new craze in which manufacturers add caffeine itself or coffee to more and more varieties of food and beverages." A company spokesman responded, saying that Cracker Jack'd won't be marketed to children and will be packaged distinctively to avoid confusion.
Why slurp oatmeal and coffee separately when you can get the buzz in a single product? With such efficiency in mind, the creators of Spark instant oatmeal cram 50 mg of caffeine into every packet. Taste critics weren't impressed: "[Its] medicinal taste seems to be concentrated in the desiccated cranberries and slimy apple slivers," says Mason Currey at Slate. "I have to fight back the gag reflex with every spoonful."
3. Jelly beans
Caffeinated jelly beans are designed to give long-distance runners and other endurance athletes the extra jolt they need when their energy sags. Yet the super-charged beans are still a favorite target of the CSPI, which argues that they put children, unsuspecting women, and others at risk. Says CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson: "How soon before we have caffeinated burgers, burritos, or breakfast cereals?"
Why are some manufacturers infusing bars of soap with as much as 200 mg of caffeine? The thinking goes that people who have a hard time dragging themselves out of bed in the morning could use an extra energy boost when they hop into the shower. The products' efficacy, however, is debatable: Can you really absorb caffeine through the skin? Unlikely, says WiseGeek. Shower water quickly dilutes the soap... plus you're rinsing the stuff off, anyway.
A German shampoo brand called Thicker Fuller Hair is caffeine-infused for a different reason: To stimulate hair growth. Evidence of its effectiveness is thin or skewed at best. "It's a fine shampoo," says Joe Cannon at Supplement Geek, "but does it help hair loss any better than pouring Diet Coke on your head?" Probably not.
Crave the fog-clearing jolt of caffeine, but dislike the bitter taste of coffee? The AeroShot might be for you. The Harvard Professor who designed the product says that each puff delivers a shot of powdered caffeine that dissolves in the mouth and instantly hits your system with about the same strength as a cup of coffee.
7. Energy sheets
Great for on-the-go versatility, Sheets Energy Strips — designed to dissolve on your tongue just like a Listerine breath strip — were conceived with athletes and college students in mind. Comedian Aziz Ansari is a notable fan.
8. Eye drops
Not much is known about this only-in-Japan product's effectiveness. Bold YouTubers who've experimented with it, however, say that applying the caffeinated eye drops causes a "burning sensation" of the sort that rubbing alcohol might trigger.
In the summer of 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill banning the sale of caffeinated beer. The legislation came nearly a year after the Food and Drug Administration buckled down on similar caffeine-infused alcohols like Four Loko, which was implicated in the hospitalizations of university students across the country. (The company was eventually forced to remove caffeine from the product.) The ban on caffeinated beer, however, didn't affect products like Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout or Meantime Coffee Porter, which are actually brewed with coffee — as opposed to being spiked with extra caffeine after the fact.
10. Beef jerky
Who, you might ask, would want something like Perky Jerky — a dried, salty meat infused with caffeine? Apparently outdoor-types, says Stacy Conradt at Mental Floss. It's been a "big hit with the hiking set."
Plenty of evidence suggests that caffeine can improve a person's metabolic rate and help him shed fat. The makers of Lytess, however, took things to absurd new heights with a line of caffeine-infused pants designed to help wearers drop weight. A test subject enlisted by ABC News put the pants to the test, wearing them consecutively for two weeks. As expected, the pants didn't help the wearer lose an ounce.