Why is soda caffeinated?

by Mark Miller July 13, 2017 5 min read

Why is soda caffeinated?

The Coca-Cola website features ingredients and other information about its products.

Why does soda have caffeine in it? Caffeine does add to the complex flavors of the various types of caffeinated soda. In fact, the taste of caffeine is bitter and has to be balanced with sugars or sweeteners and other flavors. Caffeine also adds a boost in energy to the drinkers of soda.

But what reason do the manufacturers give for adding caffeine to soda pop?

A user on Reddit.com wondered the same. Yanksin1st wrote in 2015:

I guess you could say that this is one of those things that has literally kept me up at night; I was lying in bed at 2 in the morning, thinking about how I was still awake because I had a few cans of soda at 11:30 and how I probably shouldn't drink anything with caffeine past 8, and it got me thinking... whose idea was it to put caffeine in soda? Last I checked, people had caffeine to wake themselves up in the morning. And also last I checked, soda isn't generally the peoples' choice drink in the morning... so why do they even bother putting caffeine in? There are plenty of sodas out there with none at all... and they taste exactly the same, so what gives? Why bother adding this ingredient in there? Sodas aren't advertised as energy drinks, so why bother making them so?

Another Reddit user, Boredpotatoe2, wrote this response in the same discussion thread:

Soda started out as medicine before the industry was regulated. Caffeine has some medical purposes and is sort of the only holdover from those times when it was part of a cocktail of mild drugs sold as soda. Look into the history of coca cola and it will make more sense. Its mostly about tradition and providing an extra boost over just sugar

Answer: Unknown

Dr. John Briffa, a physician, expert in nutrition and prominent blogger and journalist in England, tried to answer the question of why colas have caffeine and whether the taste differs for caffeinated and uncaffeinated beverages:

My search on-line turned up one interesting paper. As part of this research, 30 trained tasters sampled caffeinated and non-caffeinated cola beverages, without knowing which was which. None of them (not one) was able to tell the difference. This wasn't the biggest sampling exercise ever conducted, but the results were pretty conclusive. Even for trained tasters, the addition of caffeine to cola really doesn't seem to affect taste.

Dr. Griffa writes that given this test, people can only wonder why caffeine is added to soda pop. Coffee, tea and chocolate have it naturally, and other products contain caffeine because the manufacturers add it. Caffeine supplementation is often advertised as a selling point for foods and drinks, and energy drinks especially have a lot of it. But why soda?

Behave!

Parents may wonder about this a lot. Naturally energetic kids love tangy, sweet, sugary sodas that make the kids even more energetic. But if a family is frazzled by a boisterous child, they may be reluctant to give them a carbohydrate and caffeine kick, especially near bedtime.

Stimulating beverage

Dr. Griffa points out that caffeine is a stimulant. That is, it gives a body and mind more energy and relieves fatigue. He writes that while regular cola doesn't have as much caffeine as coffee or energy drinks and tea, it does have enough to give an energetic bolt. And kids' bodies are so much smaller than adults that a 12-ounce soda may equate to about as much stimulant as a regular dose of caffeine in coffee or an energy drink for an adult.

Perhaps the most famous soda drink of all is Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola website states "Coca-Cola is the most popular soft drink in history, as well as the best-known brand in the world."

In addition to caffeine, the flagship product, Coke, contains carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid and natural flavors. Some of the ingredients are derived from genetically engineered crops or GMOPs, which Coke says are safe.

Caffeine content

The caffeine content in a 12-ounce Coke is 34 milligrams. Compare that to about 100 mg for a cup of coffee. The Coca-Cola corporate website gives an oblique answer as to why the company adds caffeine to some of its products:

Many people are surprised to learn that caffeine is one of the ingredients that helps give Coca-Cola its unique great taste. Caffeine is an ingredient consumed by people every day in beverages like coffee, tea and soft drinks. We know that not everyone drinks caffeine and not everyone wants to drink it all the time, so we also offer a range of caffeine-free beverages, including Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, so people can make the choice for themselves and their families.

The company says, though, that the amount is small.

Pepsi, the third highest-selling soda, has 38 mg of caffeine in a 12-ounce serving, reports Caffeine Informer. That's a bit more than the two highest sellers, Coke and Diet Coke. In addition to all the ingredients in Coke, Pepsi also has citric acid and about 7 more grams of sugar at 41 g.

For a comprehensive list of the amounts of soda in colas, see this page at Caffeine Informer. Caffeine Informer has another list of the caffeine contents in citrus, cream and pepper sodas at this page.

Powerful synthetic caffeine

The site DecadentDecaf.com explores the question of where the caffeine in soda comes from. Answer: synthetic caffeine. Kola nuts, a natural flavoring provide some, but much of the caffeine in soda is manufactured and then added.

DecadentDecaf writes that soda bottlers add millions of kilograms of the powerful synthetic caffeine to their products every year.

Many chemicals are used to process the caffeine, and, as we mentioned, it is strong stuff:

You need to be very careful with it. A sixteenth of a spoonful will give you the same hit as a large coffee, a quarter tea spoon will lead to a racing heart, sweating and acute anxiety, a tablespoon of caffeine will kill you.

We hasten to point out that the amounts of caffeine in consumer products (drinks and food) will not kill unless the comestibles are consumed in huge amounts.

As for caffeine content on sodas, manufacturers need not give the amount, but by law must state the fact that they contain it. If you're wondering how much caffeine that soda has, see Caffeine Informer.

If you think you're getting too much caffeine in a day, cut back. It can ruin the length and quality of your sleep. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

 

Mark Miller
Mark Miller


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