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Test-Marketing of "Alcopops" Prompts Accusations of Targeting Juveniles


August 1997

Alcoholic fruit soda pops known as "alcopops" became a success in Britain and Australia earlier this year, but when one brand was recently test-marketed in five American cities, the frozen cocktails attracted widespread criticism from groups claiming that children were targeted by the products (Janet Kinosian, "`Alcopops' Causing a Brewhaha," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), March 17, 1997, p. B9; David M. Halbfinger, "Icy, Fruity Malt Liquor Lures Minors, Critics Say," New York Times, July 24, 1997, p. B1; David M. Halbfinger, "Malt Drink: Cold, Fruity, Discontinued," New York Times, July 25, 1997, p. A25; David M. Halbfinger, "Selling Alcohol Disguised As Punch," New York Times, July 27, 1997, p. E5; Amitai Etzioni, "Son of Joe Camel," Washington Post, August 17, 1997, p. C2).

The 8-ounce alcopops contain 4.5% to 6% alcohol, similar to bottled malt liquor, and cost $1.25. Packages for the pops feature bright colors and cartoons. "Alcopops" boast brand names such as St. Ides Special Blend Freeze and Squeeze®, Minnesota Brewing Co.'s Yellow Belly®, and Smirnoff Vodka's Electric Lemonade®. Other brands include Seagram Beverage Company's Frozen Paradise® line of daiquiris and Brown-Forman Corporation's Tropical Freezes® and Ice Breakers®. The products "appeal not to 40-year-olds, but guess who?" said Terrence Whillhite, executive director of the California Council on Alcohol Problems. However, Martin Fagan, general manager for the Americas at Bass Beers Worldwide, said "There is no evidence to suggest there was an increase in underage drinking because of [alcopops]."

St. Ides Special Blend Freeze and Squeeze® was test-marketed this summer in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. In July, a New York City deli was cited for selling the "alcopops" to minors. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani warned storeowners to stop selling the product rather than risk selling it to minors. The Commissioner of Consumer Affairs in New York, Jose Maldonado, asked the manufacturer, McKenzie River Corporation, to halt distribution of the drink in New York. By the end of July, McKenzie complied. "In light of the recent media reports and our concern regarding underage consumption, we have decided to immediately cease production of this frozen alcoholic beverage," said Minott Wessinger, president of the company.