Public health and safety officials have become alarmed by the newest entry into the world of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic energy drinks are prepackaged beverages that contain not only alcohol but also caffeine and other stimulants. Earlier this year, 29 state attorneys general signed a letter to Anheuser-Busch expressing their concern about Spykes, an alcoholic energy drink packaged in colorful 2-ounce bottles with obvious appeal to youth. The objections of law enforcement officials as well as parents and leading public health organizations caused Anheuser-Busch to pull Spykes from the market. But the story does not end there. Many other alcoholic energy drinks are still on the market.
Despite the sharp increase in sales of alcoholic energy drinks, their appeal to underage drinkers, and the health concerns involved in mixing stimulants with alcohol, research on the potential dangers of these products remains limited. This study reviews what data is available and takes an in-depth look at the alcohol industry’s marketing practices promoting the consumption of alcoholic energy drinks. The results, while preliminary, are unsettling. Both scientists and policymakers should focus increased attention on this emerging product category.
Three-Point Plan for Targeting Youth
- Create brand confusion with nonalcoholic versions
- Provide a cheap alternative to mixing energy drinks with alcohol
- Deploy youth-friendly grassroots and viral marketing
The Exploding popularity of Energy Drinks
- 500 new energy drink products introduced worldwide in 2006
- Energy drink sales = $3.2 billion
- 31 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are regular consumers v. 22 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds
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