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The ingredients list is sometimes written "Flavors: ... Caffeine" (Arômes: ... Caféine) on official Coca-Cola cans and home-brand cola bottles here in France.

Why is caffeine marked as an aroma rather than an ingredient? It makes it sound like there is a caffeine substitute rather than the real thing.

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  • Makes me wonder what "Caffeine" tastes like...
    – willem
    Feb 19 '20 at 12:46
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    @willem Very bitter, like other alkaloids. (In fact, a primary theory for why humans can taste bitterness is to stop them from eating things like caffeine.)
    – Sneftel
    Feb 19 '20 at 14:21
  • Pepsi in the US has caffeine listed separately from the ingredients. I'm guessing it's a French/EU thing.
    – Tim Nevins
    Feb 19 '20 at 21:45
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    In Canada, caffeine as additive is only allowed to be added to drinks as a flavouring, and specifically only to give colas a traditional bitter flavour. (In practice the definition of cola has been stretched to include any dark coloured carbonated beverage, allowing some brands of root beer to be caffeinated. Also energy drinks have commonly gotten around the limitation by using guarana as ingredient which naturally includes a high amount of caffeine.)
    – Ross Ridge
    Feb 20 '20 at 6:37
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It could be because food ingredients are supposed to be listed in the order of their "amount":

Here's the definition from FDA:

The ingredient list on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance. FDA Food Labelling Guide

Periodic videos channel on YouTube showed how 6-cups of coffee leads to only 100mg of caffeine. So the amount of caffeine is insignificant by weight when compared to other ingredients (milligrams vs grams). It would likely fall below the reportable requirements if caffeine did not have the effect it does.

For example, according to FDA "Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 10 grams" is "OK" for ground allspice.

So it would make sense to still list it, but under the other category of aroma/flavour.

In Addition, as noted by @Sneftel in the comments, caffeine does have a very bitter flavour and adding "bitters" is obviously considered flavouring.

Interestingly, and to your point, some pain medications do contain caffeine and it's surely not listed as a flavouring or aroma on those labels.

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Caffeine was in fact originally added to drinks as a flavoring. When making caffeine-free versions of some drinks, a substitute bitter is used to replicate the flavor of caffeine. Studies demonstrate that caffeine's flavor can be detected at the levels present in beverages like coffee but not reliably at the levels present in drinks like cola.

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