Written by Michael Fones
Monday, 28 May 2007 05:33
This is an excerpt from an essay (click here) by David Lazarus, who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle. The article is about the pulling of what's known as an "alcopop," an entry-level drink aimed at young adults, according to the beer industry, but very attractive to underage drinkers.
There's usually a lot of partying over Memorial Day weekend. But one thing
people -- particularly young people -- aren't drinking is Spykes, a
candy-colored beverage from Anheuser-Busch that the company has pulled
from the market after criticism from consumer watchdogs and the attorneys
general of California and 28 other states.
"This is great news," said Mike Scippa, advocacy director for the Marin
Institute, a San Rafael alcohol-awareness group. "We've been pushing for
this for as long as we've known about the product."
Spykes was introduced in 2005 with virtually no traditional marketing,
relying instead on the Internet and word of mouth to generate buzz among
consumers. It became available nationwide in January.
Spykes packed a considerable wallop, with 12 percent alcohol content and a
hit of caffeine to boot. It came in flavors like Spicy Mango and Spicy
Lime, and was packaged in little 2-ounce bottles that sold for about a
In a letter earlier this month to August Busch IV, Anheuser-Busch's chief
exec, the attorneys general expressed "serious concern about your
company's promotion and sale of alcoholic energy drinks -- alcoholic
beverages that contain caffeine and other stimulants and are highly
attractive to underage youth."
Anheuser-Busch announced about a week later that it was calling a halt to
Spykes. But the company pointedly insisted that there was nothing wrong
with its product or how it was marketed.
Spykes "has not performed up to expectations," Michael Owens, an
Anheuser-Busch vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "Due to
its limited volume potential and unfounded criticism, we are ceasing
He added that Spykes had been "unduly attacked by perennial anti-alcohol
groups," including the Marin Institute.
To be sure, Spykes wasn't alone among what critics call "alcopops" --
flavored alcoholic beverages that some say are designed specifically for
teenagers, especially girls (although alcohol companies say the target
market is young adults).
The American Medical Association reported in late 2004 that about a third
of teenage girls had tried alcopop drinks, and that teenage girls consumed
more alcopops than any other alcoholic beverage.
Owens at Anheuser-Busch noted that the alcopops market "has more than 50
products available ... in all colors and flavors." He said Spykes had "the
lowest alcohol content product in this market segment."
But Scippa at the Marin Institute said Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser
and Michelob beers, "has distinguished itself with egregious products and
He called Spykes "an entry-level drink, particularly for young women," and
said the product "also crossed the line into energy drinks, which young
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has taken a similarly
strong stand against alcopops, said that "Anheuser-Busch did the
responsible thing, if begrudgingly, by pouring its caffeinated,
child-friendly alcoholic drink known as Spykes down the drain."
"But the real question is how this ill-considered product slithered from
the drawing board to the assembly line in the first place," said George
Hacker, the group's alcohol policies director. "One also wonders whether
the company truly hit bottom with Spykes or whether it will again stoop to
market kid-friendly drinks after the furor subsides."
One has to wonder; do any Catholics work for Anheuser-Busch? Any serious Christians at all? Or even anyone asking the question, "would MY underage child be attracted to alcohol by this product?" How does a product like this get off the drawing board?
I am guessing that there were people involved who had some serious reservations, but perhaps they didn't raise any objections for fear of losing their job, or losing their promotion. Wouldn't it be great if somehow our parishes could support parishioners who want to take a stand against the development of such products, and who might lose their jobs as a result? Or better, wouldn't it be great if our parishes could support these parishioners by letting a company know that doing the wrong thing would lead to financial and public relations woes!