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    7-Eleven, Wrigley Test Coffee Gum

    Flavor hot for candy, ice cream, other products.

    Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. and 7-Eleven Inc. are testing a way for consumers to get that coffee taste without getting burned, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Wrigley's new coffee-flavored gum, Doublemint Kona Creme, is now available in 7-Eleven stores nationwide. The gum, available for about 99 cents in 17-stick packs, is an offshoot of the company's Wrigley's Coffee Gum, which has garnered a niche market since its introduction in China last year, the newspaper reported.

    But consumers shouldn't look to this for a caffeine fix. Flavored with coffee powder and artificial ingredients, there's only a trace of caffeine in the product.

    Coffee's hot, as a beverage and a flavor boost to ice cream, biscotti and chocolate. Coffee sales in coffee shops almost doubled between 2000 and 2005, and are expected to grow by another 47 percent to $12.2 billion by 2010, market research firm Datamonitor reported.

    There's strong consumer interest in coffee-flavored candy, Susan Fussell, spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association, told the newspaper.

    Los Angeles-based Adams & Brooks Inc.'s Coffee Rio hard caramel coffee candy, made with pure coffee, comes in 10 flavors. And Hershey's is offering Kit Kat candy bars in a limited edition coffee variety.

    The makers of Jolt Caffeine Energy Gum aren't losing any sleep over Wrigley's coffee flavor test. Twice in 2004, Wrigley sued Jolt claiming patent infringement. Wrigley, which once sold another caffeinated gum called Stay Alert, dropped one suit, and the companies settled the other.

    "We're not the least bit concerned about coffee-flavored Doublemint gum," said Kevin Gass, an owner of Hackensack, N.J.-based GumRunners, which makes Jolt gum. (Two pieces contain the caffeine equivalent of a cup of coffee.)

    "In some strange way, we're actually pleased to see that they're attempting to grow the gum category beyond another mint, cinnamon or fruit gum," Gass said.

    Wrigley isn't sold yet on rolling it out more broadly, company spokeswoman Jessica Schilling told the newspaper.

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