Store-Brand Soft Drinks May Contain Less Sweet, Precious Caffeine

When shopping for soda, it’s a reasonable assumption that store-brand colas have more or less the same amount of caffeine as the name brand, right? Or at least the same amount of caffeine from one bottle to another. Some scientists studied a wide variety of sodas, tested their caffeine levels and learned…not so much.

In the context of the pro-generic medicine stance that Consumerist took in this post about the McNeil plant that produced bacteria-ridden medicine for kids, reader Todd sent us a study published in the Journal of Food Science in 2007. The data may be a little out of date, but it’s not flat yet. It’s fascinating. The study found that while name-brand sodas were pretty consistent in their caffeine content, store-brand drinks weren’t. Some of Food Lion’s version of Mountain Dew didn’t have any caffeine at all, entirely defeating the point.

Based upon the standard deviations listed in Table 3 to 6, the quality control of national-brand beverages appeared generally better than that for the store-brand beverages. Additional lots were obtained and analyzed for some beverages whose duplicate lots had quite different caffeine values. Products displaying large variations between lots included Rite Aid’s Big Fizz Cola, Walgreens Cola, Walgreens Diet Cola, Dollar General’s CloverValley Cola, CloverValley Diet Cola, Save-a-Lot’s Dr Pop, Winn-Dixie’s Chek Diet Kountry Mist, and Ingle’s Laura Lynn Mountain Moon Drop. In addition, 1 lot of Food Lion’s Mountain Lion was found to contain no caffeine (this sample was not included in the data analysis). Thus, there appears to be less stringent quality control with store-brand products than with the national-brand products.

Caffeine content of prepackaged national-brand and private-label carbonated beverages. (Abstract only) [PubMed]

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  1. bsh0544 says:

    “The data may be a little out of date, but it’s not flat yet. It’s fascinating.”

    Unnecessary lame joke. 5 yard penalty.

  2. Alvis says:

    I am going to write a strongly-worded letter to Food Lion about my dissati…zzzz….

  3. grumblingmumbles says:

    To be honest, Im actually ok with this….

  4. Southern says:

    The wide range of caffeine contents in carbonated beverages indicates that consumers would benefit from the placement of caffeine values on food labels.

    I do agree. I’ve long wondered just why they DON’T put those values on the labels, as it’s an addictive drug, and when I want a fix, I want the strongest fix possible. ;-) (Wow tho, I didn’t realize that Diet Coke had such a high concentration — maybe that’s why I prefer it over most other (Diet) soft-drinks.

  5. davegins says:

    I am very happy that most drinks now list the caffeine content, even if in teeny tiny print. That’s the only way to get the best bang for your buck. I think Monster has the most among energy drinks and good old “Mtn” Dew has the most among conventional soda. I only drink diet so my options are limited.

    • ludwigk says:

      Most mainstream energy drinks have about 80 mg of caffeine per 8 oz serving, including most varieties of Monster, No Fear, Rockstar, etc.. Keep in mind most of those beverages come in 16 oz cans. RedBull is 80 mg per 8.4 oz, which is just slightly less.

      Most sodas contain 40-50 mg per 12 oz serving, but they’re a bit all over the place. If you do the math, that means most energy drinks have 2.5x the caffeine of regular caffeinated soda by volume.

      I believe Mt. Dew has the most of any non-energy soda at around 50.

      In terms of “Bang for Buck”, coffee ALWAYS wins, with drip coffee clocking in around 90-200 mg per 8 oz cup. That’s the tiny, tiny little one, smaller than any cup Starbucks even carries.

      But the quick rule of thumb is: Soda, ~45 mg per can. Energy Drink, 80 mg per 8 oz.

    • nbs2 says:

      What’s a cable company doing making caffeinated beverages?

  6. AllanG54 says:

    I think Food Lion’s version is actually called “Mountain Dew Placebo”

  7. npage148 says:

    Caffine really isn’t sweet, it’s actually quite bitter

  8. Wolfbird says:

    Caffeine is the point of Mountain Dew? What? Canadian Mountain Dew doesn’t have caffeine at all last I checked. We haven’t died from it yet, either.

  9. citrus538 says:

    Please please please list caffeine content on all drinks containing significant amounts of caffeine! It would be helpful to both those who want caffeine and those who avoid it.

  10. missdona says:

    “Winn-Dixie’s Chek Diet Kountry Mist” might be the most un-appetizing sounding drink ever.

  11. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    I think we should adopt the rules that other countries like Canada and Australia have. Caffeine should only be naturally occuring, not added in. Things like orange sodas and Mountian Dew wouldn’t have caffeine like they do here. I constantly have to remind Mr. Aroo (Australian) that those drinks have caffeine here. He’s just not used to it. There are times when you want to avoid it, and it’s hard to do if you don’t expect it to be there. Listing the caffeine content on the packaging would be a huge step in the right direction.

    ‘Course, I know my opinion is not very popular here on the caffeine soaked interwebs, so I understand if you disagree.

  12. Emperor Norton I says:

    The addition of caffeine should be banned by the FDA!
    I’m convinced that if the caffeine were removed, then we would see a decrease in hyperactivity in children, who are being drugged by their ever increasing consumption of caffeinated drinks.

    • grumblingmumbles says:

      Better plan – we outlaw it unless your 15, and have legal soda for children thats caffeine free. Kind of like the beer system and O’Doules (i think thats the alcohol free beer brand).

      Of course, considering the recent reports of people’s IDs being scanned for alcohol, I think my idea is a terrible one.

    • dg says:

      5 PM News: FDA Bans Caffeine additive to soda

      6PM News: Armed insurrection starts erupting around the Nation…

      7PM News: FDA rescinds ban.

  13. AngryK9 says:

    I can’t see this as being a bad thing.

  14. LastError says:

    Winn Dixie used to own their own bottling plant which made all their drinks. They sold the plant out of need for cash and the quality has gone downhill since then.

    Kroger softdrinks USED to have lots of caffeine but that changed back in the early 90s, back when the cans had the little West Virginia logo on the top. That changed when the logo went away. The current formulas have very little.

    Publix store brand drinks are also very light on the caffeine. This is a pity because they are one of the few store brands not made with aspartame.