A Jamaican-based Diageo representative, Erin Mitchell, has admitted that a youth-oriented, alcopop product is being tested on the 18-24 year old market in Jamaica and is being considered for United States distribution.
With a shocking display of truth rarely seen among alcohol producers, the Red Stripe Beer brand manager stated that a new raspberry Flavored Malt Beverage (FMB) product called “Burst” has been designed as a “recruitment-driven” product primarily for female 18-24 year olds.
The article in “The Gleaner” November 6, 2013 included a statement by Ms. Mitchell, “We hope it has crossover appeal,” suggesting the pink and red labels and raspberry beer flavor has already been tested to appeal to young women. The title of “The Gleaner” article is, “Red Stripe Creates Raspberry Beer for Young Drinkers.”
In Jamaica, where Burst is produced and distributed, there is no minimum legal drinking age. According the article, the decision to distribute the product line in the U.S., Canada and the UK will be made by “Red Stripe teams” in those countries.
“It’s clear now that Diageo tests alcopop beverages on 18-24 year old cohorts of young women and men in other countries before marketing them in places like the United States where the drinking age is appropriately higher,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director / CEO of Alcohol Justice.
“Alcopops or FMBs were designed as “cocktails on training wheels,” sweet and fruity, to lure underage youth into unhealthy drinking behaviors, especially underage girls. Now we have written proof that Diageo is leading the charge in a race to the bottom of the alcopop barrel to endanger youth.”
In the U.S., alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death, responsible for an estimated 79,000 fatalities annually. Of those are approximately 5,000 people under age 21, the minimum legal drinking age in the U.S.
“Since our first report on youth-attractive Alcopops in 2007, we have campaigned for an end to this dangerous product category,” stated Michael Scippa, Public Affairs Director at Alcohol Justice. “Now that we have in a producer’s own words, that they are targeting people under the age of 21 with alcopops, we are renewing our call for change to reduce the threat to youth.”
“We must insist that Diageo promise not to market any Red Stripe alcopop products in the United States,” stated Livingston. “Furthermore, we ask them to start limiting their production and distribution of Smirnoff Ice products which come in many sweet and fruity youth-oriented flavors.”
In the U.S., products such as Smirnoff Ice, Bud Light Straw-Ber-Rita, and Four Loko are very popular among underage drinkers, loaded with up to 12% alcohol, and often priced cheaper than non-alcoholic energy drinks to appeal to the youth market.
“It may be time for the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration to look at the marketing and product development of Diageo brands,” said Livingston.
“The fruit and fruit flavoring additives to alcopops could arguably be viewed as food additives to an alcohol product. Additionally, the States, as the primary regulators of alcoholic beverages, have full legal authority to ban dangerous alcoholic products like alcopops to help mitigate the devastating public health threat they present to underage drinkers. It’s time for all of them to take action.”