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The US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has ruled that Anheuser-Busch’s line of Spykes malt beverages violate federal law because their labels are too hard to read. As a result, A-B stopped production on the product line for a week while it brought its labeling specs up to code.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the government said that “the mandatory health-warning statements included on each of the eight flavors of the two-ounce beverages were too difficult to read. The warnings contained 41 to 47 characters per inch, exceeding the maximum of 40. In addition, for three of the flavors, the label's background made the text hard to read, the agency said. The warnings alert consumers that alcoholic beverages can cause health problems, impair driving abilities or cause birth defects.”

Meanwhile, A-B also is under fire for creating alcoholic beverages infused with caffeine, with some 30 state Attorneys General sending a letter to A-B expressing their concerns that these drinks are designed to appeal to underage drinkers.
KC's View:
The recent brouhaha over the despicably named “Cocaine” energy drink shows that companies have to be pretty sensitive about this stuff. Even the perception that underage kids are being targeted by alcohol manufacturers is not good for those companies, and they need to be careful about such offerings.

(Note: The Wall Street Journal reports that “Spykes drinks come in colorful bottles and sell for 75 cents to $1. According to the Web site for the beverage, Spykes can be consumed ‘as a shot’ or be used to ‘spice up your beer’ or ‘invent a new cocktail’.” We are a 52-year-old male who enjoys a good beer, and we can’t imagine any circumstances under which Spykes would sound appealing. That doesn’t mean that it is being targeted at teens, but it does sort of demonstrate the problem.)

The problem of teen drinking is something we all have to pay attention to. Just this past weekend, our son went to his senior prom, and he told us that there was an entire party bus of attendees denied entry because they had booze on the bus, and that one senior – a so-called “golden boy” who is an A student, an athlete, a musician and a young man accepted at Yale – was turned away and suspended from school because he showed up drunk.

We can’t blame the alcoholic beverage companies for this. But it is fair to expect the people who run these companies to think like parents as well as marketers.