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Boiled Frog Marketing

Kevin Yarr
by Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca

Sometimes a food trend sneaks up on us, and is well established before anyone starts to think it might be a problem, like the proverbial frog that will jump out of boiling water if dropped in, but will sit quietly while water is heated to boiling around it.

We may have reaching the point with energy drinks where we're thinking the water is getting awfully hot.

The boiled frog comes to my mind because on P.E.I. we were dropped into the boiling water with these sweet, fizzy, loaded-with-caffeine drinks. Up until last May they couldn't legally be sold here, because as flavoured, carbonated beverages they needed to be sold in refillable containers (according to legislation dating back to 1984). It was sold as a protection for the environment, though many suspected it was designed to protect bottling jobs on the Island as well.

That ban officially ended May 5, and along with shelf loads of canned pop came energy drinks, which were quickly followed by complaints from local schools.

It should come as no surprise that something sweet and fizzy, with the added cachet of being a drug that was legal for children, would quickly become popular with adolescents. There came calls for the sale of the drinks to youth to be banned, and P.E.I.'s Western School Board barred them from being brought onto school property.

The reaction outside of P.E.I. has been comparatively slow. There have been concerns expressed about the drinks for a long time, but momentum is building only as the caffeine levels in the latest products rise.

A recent study likened selling supercharged energy drinks, with up to 500 milligram of caffeine (like four cups of coffee), alongside their tamer cousins is like ignoring the difference between scotch and beer.

If the energy drinks had come with 500 milligrams of caffeine from the start, public reaction to them might have been different.

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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

About the writers

Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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