The controversy behind ‘The Charli’, Dunkin’s new TikTok-inspired drink

On Sept. 2, Dunkin debuted a new coffee called ‘The Charli’- a drink based on Charli D’Amelio’s favorite drink order.

If you familiar with the app TikTok, this name is well known. D’Amelio is a 16 year old dancer from Connecticut who happens to be the most followed personality on the platform with over 80 million followers.

Although D’Amelio is known for her moves to popular songs, she is also known for her love of coffee–specifically Dunkin Donuts. This caused the creation of ‘The Charli’: a cold brew with whole milk and three pumps of caramel swirl.

This limited-time drink costs $3.19 for a standard 24-ounce cup which contains 41 grams of sugar (equivalent to adding 2.6 pop-tarts in a cup). According to the American Heart Association, the recommended amount of added sugar consumption per day is no more than 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men.

Charli D’Amelio behind the Dunkin Donuts’ counter making herself ‘The Charli’ [Photo Source: Fast Company]

What’s the issue?

With anything else in the world, there is controversy. Charli D’Amelio has a relatively young fan base, ranging from kindergartners to young adults.

Many people believe that D’Amelio is pushing her child audience into drinking strong, caffeinated coffee that could have serious health effects.

Many people took to Twitter to voice their opinions on the matter. While some celebrated with younger Charli fans, others called out how no child should be drinking cold brew.

Although no research has shown that drinking coffee throughout your childhood can have an impact on your future, scientists still remain skeptical about caffeine intake.

According to John Hopkins Medicine Organization, too much caffeine for kids can be dangerous and in some cases, fatal. In all age groups, too much caffeine intake can cause issues with heart rate, blood pressure, acid reflux, sleep disturbance, and an overall anxiety increase.

Caffeine has a dose-response effect. Because children are smaller in body size, it takes less to impact their functioning. Children and adolescents are also still developing and the impact of caffeine on their nervous systems and cardiovascular systems is not fully known.

John Hopkins Medicine

Price point controversy

Another issue that kept reoccuring was the price of the drink itself. During an interview with Fast Company, a Dunkin representative talked about how the drink would be no higher than if it was just a standard cold brew with whole milk and three pumps of caramel.

The Charli suggested retail price is consistent with the suggested retail price for a medium cold brew with whole milk & 3 pumps of caramel swirl. There is no upcharge.

Dunkin Donuts, courtesy of Fast Company

But this was quickly debunked by a Twitter user by the handle @lukasfarrell10. A screenshot showed that while ordering in the Dunkin Donuts app, the same cold brew without D’Amelio’s name on it was .24 cents cheaper.

The tweet were user @lukasfarrell shows the difference in the Dunkin Donuts app [Photo Source: Twitter]

Although the difference between the two drinks is small, it still shows how Dunkin is profiting off of Charli D’Amelio’s young fan base. The fans come in to support her and end up paying more than the original price for the beverage.

But is ‘The Charli’ really making a difference in coffees sold to preteens? Was there a noticeable jump in cold brew coffee sales since the debut? To figure out this question, The Warrior Word interviewed an employee of Dunkin Donuts, Sydney Little.

‘The Charli’ from behind the counter: Inside Dunkin Donuts

Little is a senior at Cherokee High School who also happens to brew coffee on the side. She has been working at Dunkin since April 2019 and was there for the announcement of ‘The Charli’.

When this drink came out, she voiced her dislike for the coffee and had much to say on its release.

A lot of new people are coming to get ‘The Charli’. We sell a ton of it. We usually only make one thing of cold brew and it lasts us all day, but we have to make two things of it now, even on the slow days.

Sydney Little, Senior
D’Amelio’s announcement post that quickly racked up over 5 million likes

One thing that corresponded with the many tweets earlier shown about the drink is the young children that come in to purchase it. Little goes into more detail about the ages.

A lot of kids are coming to get it. We’ve sold it to anywhere from 8 years old to [high schoolers]. Mostly it’s the middle school age range.

Sydney Little, Senior

After doing more research online, it was pretty clear that this drink was popular among all ages. That’s why I decided to try it out for myself and see if I thought this drink was good.

The taste test

I am personally a big fan of coffee, strong coffee as well. That is when I decided it would be a great idea to taste it to see if I thought young children would like it.

Alongside me for this journey was my sister, Devin Pace, who enjoys coffee as much as I do. We decided to order two large ‘The Charli’ coffees, resulting in a total of $7.19. I quickly was disgusted on how sweet and somehow bitter the beverage was.

Not wanting my money to go to waste, I poured some creamer in the coffee and headed to school.

My journalism teacher, Mrs. Teasley, pointed out how I was speaking “1,000 miles a minute” and how I could not stop shaking. The coffee made me extremely jittery for about seven hours.

Overall, I was shocked on how children as young as six years old were drinking this coffee. As someone who drinks coffee about three to four times a week, it was almost like an overload to my system because of how caffeinated and sugary it was. It was almost like drinking a thin, bitter syrup.

My sister on the other hand had a completely different experience than me.

At first, she did not like the drink, but ended up changing her stance.

I am not a big fan of Charli D’Amelio, but I think her coffee is really good. It’s sweet and it was a good energy boost for cheer practice. It’s at 5/5 stars.

Devin Pace, Sophmore

Even though we both had different opinions on it’s taste, we both knew that this drink was unhealthy. It was definitely a drink that should only be consumed as an occasional treat instead of an everyday beverage.

There is no denying the popularity of this drink, though as with any product consumed, common sense should play a factor. Research indicates that this is not an advisable drink for youth, though this may be a sign of typical complications that can arise when a target market for a celebrity doesn’t also coincide with a target market for their endorsed product.

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