In what comes as a complete shock and a horrible disappointment to anyone who likes getting drunk and staying up all night, the MillerCoors company announced yesterday it will stop production of its wildly popular Sparks 7% Alcohol by Volume Energy Drink.
The City of San Francisco and the Attorney Generals of 13 other states have successfully won litigation with the MillerCoors company on grounds that the energy drink/alcohol concoction was improperly marketed to younger children. These underage drinkers were said to be enticed with the products branding as ‘an energy booster’ and partying stimulant due to its ingredients of guarana, caffeine, taurine and ginseng.
Although Sparks has never produced a television ad or directly sought out underage drinkers to buy its product, the prosecutors argued that the drink is heavily associated with drinks like Red Bull and Monster which are already popular with the youth demographic.
In my opinion that sounds like kind of a shaky argument. Is the mere fact that taurine, caffeine, and guarana are contained in the product enough to say that they are ‘marketed to the youth’? Is it possible ‘of age’ drinkers also enjoyed energy boosts and the ability to ‘party longer’. All packaging clearly says ‘contains alcohol’ and 7 or 8% by volume, a malt liquor beverage. And I’m pretty sure liquor store owners know not to allow underage kids to walk out of their store with these drinks. So whose fault is it?
This is not a major blow to the MillerCoors though. It contends it will still produce the drink after reformulating the ingredients and removing all the energy drink-style components.
Sparks is the leading brand in the alcohol energy drink market, with a 60% market share. However, Sparks only makes up 1% of MillerCoors total volume. So even if it was shelved, it won’t hurt Miller who is drunk off profits from Miller Lite, "Good Call".
Here’s a deeper investigative report from last year in which local news anchorman Art Fennell admits, "I partake, I like them very much." :
For some more background, Lew Bryson, an excellent Alcohol Business columnist for Portfolio magazine has an article on the Alcohol Energy Drink market that appeared in the September issue of the publication.
AP: MillerCoors To Remove Caffeine From Sparks, December 18, 2008