Wednesday, September 17, 2008

States try to pull the plug on Sparks

Apparently 25 states have asked MillerCoors to give up plans for an upcoming caffeinated alcohol drink called "Sparks Red". It seems that the AGs of those states consider an 8% ABV malt beverage loaded with caffeine, guarana, ginseng and taurine to be a "recipe for disaster".

Well, yeah. Obviously. Because the only thing worse than a drunk underage driver is a jittery, paranoid drunk underage driver.

But what is interesting about this is that it's not really a novel idea. Irish coffee anyone? Or take Vodka and Redbull, a popular combination out in clubland for years. By volume, (and I'm just guestimating here) it seems like you'd have much them same levels of alcohol, caffeine, guarana, etc. in a double vodka redbull as in one of these cans. Not to mention all the sweet sweet high fructose cornsyrup...

However, Redbull and Grey Goose don't actively market their potential combination, whereas it seems obvious that Sparks is aimed at a, erm, "younger demographic". Traditional ground for liquor control, and one that still has some cache. Alcopops, or "Malt Beverages", typically occupy a weird legal netherworld where they're not quite beer, not quite hard liquor, and typically taxed and regulated more loosely. Which is why Smirnoff Ice in the United States is a "Malt Beverage", taking much science and work to become beer that doesn't taste at all like beer while in Europe they just add cheap vodka to fruit juice. The demographics are typically youth oriented, and aimed at those who wouldn't normally drink beer but are in situations where something cold and fizzy and refreshing would be perfect. The wine cooler set. Sparks it seems would be particularly aimed at clubs and party situations. And teenagers like parties, right?

Another shot across the bow in the Alcopop wars, and one MillerCoors may lose. Anheuser-Busch was slapped for their underage marketing practices back in June for much the same thing.

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The Twentyfirst Amendment Meets the 21st Century by Russell Hews Everett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The opinions expressed on this page are purely my own, and should not be taken to constitute legal representation or advice.