Dunkin' is now selling caffeinated energy drinks, even after Panera's controversy

ByJordan Valinsky, CNNWire
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Dunkin launches new energy drink SPARKD
Dunkin launched a new caffeinated energy drink.

NEW YORK -- Dunkin' is adding an energy drink to its menu to capture some of the buzz generated by heavily caffeinated beverages, which are surging in popularity. But the menu addition comes with a risk: Panera Bread is facing multiple lawsuits over its own energy drink.

Beginning Wednesday, Dunkin' is adding "SPARKD' Energy" iced drinks in two flavors - berry burst and peach - which "provides a revitalizing burst of energy, made with vitamins, minerals and a kick of caffeine," Dunkin' said in a press release.

Notably, Dunkin' is adding a type of drink that has been the center of legal trouble for its rival. Panera has faced three separate lawsuits over Charged Lemonade in recent months that claim the high levels of caffeine in the product have led to the deaths of two customers and irreversible health complications in another.

A large size of Panera's Charged Lemonade, which comes in a 30-oz cup, contains up to 234 mg of caffeine. The Dunkin' energy drink has less caffeine for a similarly sized cup with 192 mg for both flavors, according to its website.

The US Food and Drug Administration says that a safe quantity of caffeine "for healthy adults" typically amounts to about 400 milligrams per day (around four or five cups of coffee).

Panera previously told CNN that it was investigating the legal matters. In December, following the second lawsuit, the company said that its investigation had revealed that the man's death "was not caused by one of the company's products... Panera stands firmly by the safety of our products." Panera's drink remains on sale.

Despite the controversy, energy drinks are big sellers for chains. At Dutch Bros, a fast-growing chain, its lineup of energy drinks accounts for a quarter of its sales. McDonald's CosMc's spinoff also has beverages with "energy bursts" caffeine syrup.

Energy drinks typically attract younger drinkers, particularly men between the ages of 18 to 34, and have garnered more than $21 billion in US sales in 2022, according to research firm Mintel, was forecasted to grow another 7% in 2023.

CNN's Eva Rothenberg contributed to this report.

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