Crack Down on Alcoholic Drinks 'Nearly Identical' to Booze-Free Counterparts
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Alcoholic Beverages ‘Nearly Identical’ to Zero-Proof Options Are Creating a Lot of Confusion — Here’s How Regulators in These 2 States Are Cracking Down on Them

Alcoholic counterparts to popular soda and juice brands have sparked concern among regulators, prompting two states to take action to ensure the products stay well separated on store shelves.

In the realm of beverages, a trend has emerged over the past few years that has sparked concern in several U.S. states, namely Illinois and Virginia, prompting regulatory action. The concern revolves around alcoholic drinks that bear a striking resemblance to their non-alcoholic counterparts potentially leading to confusion among consumers, particularly parents shopping for family-friendly beverages.

Various beverage manufacturers have ventured into producing adult-oriented versions of beloved non-alcoholic beverages. Among these offerings are Simply Spiked, a collaboration between Molson Coors and Coca-Cola; SunnyD Vodka Seltzer from Harvest Hill Beverage Company; and Hard Mountain Dew, a creation of PepsiCo and the Boston Beer Company.

While these booze-infused versions of childhood favorites have been generally met with welcoming arms from the nostalgic 21-and-up crowd, some parties have addressed their concerns.

According to Insider, these alcoholic beverages often closely mirror the branding, logos and designs of their non-alcoholic counterparts. And while they are typically distinguished by labels containing words such as “spiked” and indications of alcohol content, regulators from two states contend that they bear such striking resemblances to their booze-free originals that they must be separated from one another on store shelves.

“We were really concerned that busy parents, busy caregivers, busy shoppers, as they traversed the marketplace, were inadvertently grabbing the wrong thing,” Executive Director of the Illinois Commission Lisa Gardner, informed the Wall Street Journal.

“In some situations, in some instances, these co-branded products have nearly identical markings as the non-alcoholic products, so it’s creating a lot of confusion in the marketplace.”

To address these concerns, Illinois and Virginia have taken regulatory steps to ensure these alcoholic beverages are kept separate from their non-alcoholic counterparts on store shelves. This move aims to prevent inadvertent purchases by shoppers, such as parents who may be seeking child-friendly options.

According to the ruling, larger stores exceeding 25,000 square feet are prohibited from placing co-branded alcoholic beverages in close proximity to soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water, candy or snacks featuring cartoon characters or youth-oriented images. Similarly, smaller stores selling such alcoholic co-branded products are also required to keep them separate and refrain from displaying them next to their offerings. Additionally, these stores must display a sign provided by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) to indicate that the product contains alcohol.

In response to the regulatory measures, beverage companies like Harvest Hill and Molson Coors have emphasized their commitment to responsible marketing practices, prominently displaying alcohol content information on their products. While these beverages have garnered attention for their sweet and fruity profiles, which can mask their alcoholic nature, they have also faced criticism from consumer advocacy groups and health experts.

Pamela Trangenstein, a scientist at the Public Health Institute in California specializing in alcohol research, expressed concern about these types of releases in February, stating, “The carbonation and sugar content can make it taste like you aren’t drinking alcohol.”

Meanwhile, New York Times writer Ted Alcorn voiced similar concerns, citing Hard Mountain Dew as an example.

“It is sugar- and caffeine-free, and taps into consumers’ connection to a brand they’ve known for years,” he said of the boozy soda. “Although the new product is 5 percent alcohol by volume, a 24-ounce can contain the equivalent of two standard drinks.”

Read next:

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Candie Getgen is the managing editor for Gin Raiders. Before immersing herself in the world of spirits journalism, Candie has been many things: a bartender, a literary journal editor, an English teacher — and even a poet. Now, Candie shares her passion for gin with the world and hopes to help others fall in love with it, too (if they haven't already!). When not writing, Candie enjoys sipping a Negroni while drawing or relaxing by the pool with a campy mystery novel.