Caffeine has gone crazy. It now comes in so many forms that it’s hard to keep up: soft drinks, obviously, but also energy drinks, energy shots, chewing gum, sports gels, and nasal sprays. In all of them, the marquee ingredient is a white powder, delivered to our bloodstreams by a sophisticated global supply chain that few of us know anything about.
The scale of this industry is as eye-opening as a NoDoz. Americans plow through more than 15 million pounds of powdered caffeine annually—enough to fill a freight train 2 miles long, all 270 cars loaded to the brim.
This turbocharging might be taking a toll on our health. US emergency room visits related to energy drinks spiked from 1,100 in 2005 to 13,000 in 2009, and in November the FDA announced it was investigating 5-Hour Energy after 13 deaths were associated with the popular product. Through it all, sales continue to jitter upward. We have become creatures that turn caffeine into motion, and the corner store is our filling station.