Monthly Archives: March 2011

Four Loko and Joose: Coming to Your Grocery Store

Don’t look now, but Four Loko and Joose could be in your grocery store soon.

Both sweetened, high-alcohol products used to include caffeine and were marketed as alcoholic energy drinks until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put the kibosh on the practice in December 2010. The manufacturers reformulated the beverages without caffeine and they’re now back on the market.

You’d think Phusion Projects, LLC, maker of Four Loko, would be hurting after a blow like that, but in spite of its cynical marketing and sales of “blackout in a can,” it claims to be doing just fine, thank you.

In a press release, the company said it had “become the best selling [sic] progressive adult beverage in the convenience store channel and one of the fastest growing products in the industry, making Phusion Projects the 11th largest marketer of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.”

I’m not sure what a “progressive adult beverage is,” but the news of the company’s success is plenty depressing, if true. To make matters worse, it says it will introduce Four Loko – with a still-hefty 8 percent alcohol — in 11-oz. glass bottles in “grocery, mass merchandise and drug stores.”

Now that may not sound like a big deal, but here’s the thing. The drink is usually packaged in enormous 23.5-oz, colorful bottles and can be found in convenience stores. Now, you’ll be able to find it at the grocery store – no extra stop needed – and it’ll look like your average bottle of beer (with alcohol content around 4 to 6 percent), yet packing a significantly bigger punch (8 percent).

As Cassie Greisen of Project Extra Mile, an advocacy group based in Nebraska, told the Omaha Herald, “It gives the illusion that you’re not drinking as much alcohol as you are.”

She’s concerned that the fruity flavors and colorful bottles will attract underage drinkers, most of whom binge drink. And based on the track record of Four Loko and other alcoholic energy drinks – linked as they were to multiple college students hospitalized on more than one campus – that’s a legitimate concern.

Meanwhile, United Brand Company, the maker of Four Loko’s competitor, Joose, isn’t sitting on its hands. Nope – according to this video advertisement for the drink, “great intelligence” (which, the ad tells us, has “no limits”), goes hand in hand with “great innovation.”

Wonder what that innovation might be? (Spoiler alert!) Joose will soon be available in 12-oz. glass bottles, at 8.5 percent alcohol. One can only assume that Joose, too, will be on grocery stores shelves soon.

Oh, joy.


Usher, Belvedere Vodka, and the Most Hypocritical Product (Red) Product Yet

In a stunning display of insensitivity and ignorance, Belvedere Vodka and singer Usher have joined with Product (Red) to launch a special edition bottle and give half its profits to “fight HIV/AIDS in Africa,” under the misleading tagline “Helps Save Lives.” Promoting and selling booze to fight HIV/AIDS?! There are just so many things wrong with this, we can hardly decide where to start. Let’s consider the facts that are missing from this campaign:

* Product (Red) must have conveniently missed the recent news release that alcohol kills more people annually than AIDS, tuberculosis, or violence – a sobering 4% of all deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Association.

* Alcohol use is a leading factor in the spread of HIV. Alcohol consumption is associated with two major modes of HIV transmission: high-risk sexual behaviors and injection drug use. BelvedereRedUpclose

* Alcohol can also complicate the long-term health outcomes of HIV-positiveindividuals. People withHIV/AIDS are more likely to engage in high-risk alcohol consumption, which is associated with increasedmedical and psychiatric  complications, delays in seeking treatment, and poorer treatment compliance and outcomes.

* In Botswana, a country with a 24 percent incidence of HIV/AIDS, the effects of alcohol on HIV/AIDS have gotten so bad that the president has implemented legislation specifically targeting alcohol consumption in order to decrease the spread of the disease.

* Black men in the United States have six times the incidence of HIV infection as white men. The population at highest risk of being infected with HIV in the United States is black males between the age of 15 and 49: sounds remarkably like Usher’s target demographic. The idea that increasing this population’s alcohol purchases and consumption will ‘Help Save Lives’ is mind-numbing.

* If there were any doubt that Belvedere wants more young, black people to drink more of their vodka, just look at who else they’ve brought into the mix: stars like Serena Williams, 50 Cent, and Dr. Dre, who appeal to this very demographic.

Despite all of these serious campaign flaws, the product’s website proclaims that “Both (RED)™ and Belvedere Vodka are unanimous in our objective to empower global consumers to help eliminate HIV/AIDS with (BELVEDERE) RED Special Edition.”

If Usher and Product (Red) really wanted to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa, they would counteract the oversaturation of alcohol advertising, rather than promoting it. Instead, it seems that Belvedere and its parent company, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) are targeting the populations at highest risk of HIV, to increase sales and consumption of a product that increases both the risk of contracting HIV and the progression of HIV/AIDS disease. All so that LVMH can make a donation and get (wait for it…) more publicity and attention.

This campaign is about the bottom line, pure and simple, and does a disservice to the battle against HIV/AIDS. LVMH and Belvedere Vodka just hope that we are naïve enough to fall for it.

Source: Marin Institute

Over 700,000 Young Teens Drink Alcohol; Most Get It From Home

A new analysis of four years of government data shows that most underage youth get alcohol from home, and about a third were given it by their parents or guardians, according to a Feb. 17 press release from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Drawing on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducted annually 2006 through 2009, SAMHSA estimated that about 709,000 U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 14 currently drink alcohol.

Over 44,000 teens ages 12 to 14 participated in the surveys, of whom 5.9 percent said they drank alcohol in the previous month.

Nearly half of the youth surveyed either got their alcohol from a parent or guardian (29.6 percent), or from home (15.7 percent). Others acquired it from an unrelated adult (13.5 percent) or from another underage youth (19.6 percent).

“People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are six times more likely than those who start at age 21 and older to develop alcohol problems,” said SAMHSA Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde. “Parents and other adults need to be aware that providing alcohol to children can expose them to an increased risk for alcohol abuse and set them on a path with increased potential for addiction.”

TIME reported the SAMHSA data Feb. 21, but questioned whether parents who shared alcohol with their children put them at greater risk of serious alcohol problems later in life. TIME cited a Wake Forest University study from 2004 that appeared to show that teens who shared alcohol with their parents at dinner or in a religious context (versus being given alcohol for a party) were less likely to drink or to develop drinking problems.

A one page summary of SAMHSA’s data was published in the Feb. 17, 2011 Data Spotlight (PDF) from SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.

Source: Join Together