The Buzz “Buzz”

I barely have two seconds to rub together these days (where did I ever get the idea that bringing a newborn and a recovering mother back into the house would make life less demanding?). But I wanted to muse for a bit on the subject of Buzz Donuts. These caffeine-laced items have been getting a lot of press the last few days, probably because Mr. Buzz (a.k.a. food scientist Robert Bohannon) just issued a press release. The concept is pretty much the same as Jolt Cola or Red Bull, but of course in solid form. The upshot being you can get your morning sugar and caffeine kick in an all-in-one package that won’t spill and scald your nether regions while you drive.

The idea of putting caffeine in solid foods has actually been around for quite a while. The big problem has always been that caffeine is an alkaloid, which is to say a molecule of the same type that makes bitter greens like kale bitter. Finding a way to incorporate it in high enough amounts to add zing, yet without overpowering the taste of whatever it is it’s being added to, has traditionally been the problem. You can’t get rid of the bitter taste without fundamentally changing the molecule. But you can mask it, which is what it seems Mr. Bohannon has done in some novel way.

Right now caffeinated doughnuts are supposedly under serious consideration by the likes of Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme, though I find that unlikely. Food makers evaluate everything within sight from a product development standpoint, and very few of these cockamamie ideas ever find a permanent spot in the product line. In fact this press release is very likely Mr. Bohannon’s (or his publicists’s) way of trying to prime the ol’ deal pump by generating media “buzz”.

This whole thing reminds me of a doughnut place I came across in Portland which, late at night, will offer ungodly doughnut flavors, the icings of which are often laced with over-the-counter cold or heartburn-relief medications like Robitussin and Maalox. A poor-man’s (or drunkard’s) version of what food companies call “nutraceuticals”, which is to say foods that deliver medical benefits. And if you have a hard time understanding why anyone would be interested in such a thing, just imagine how much better chemotherapy would feel if it were delivered in the form of Oreos. Or better still, if the Oreos you typically ate would actually prevent you from getting cancer in the first place. That’s where the science of nutraceuticals is trying to take us. Soon, phytosterols and Omega-3’s won’t be limited to sports bars. They’ll be in boxed macaroni & cheese and cans of baked beans. Maybe that’s a good thing. A whole lot better than caffeinated bagels, anyway.

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