In the Doghouse

Hardees/Carl’s Jr. Pushes Budweiser® Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

a man reviews the budweiser beer cheese bacon burger Fast Food/Beer Co-Marketing Targets Youth

On October 27, 2016, sister fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s rolled out the Budweiser® Beer Cheese Bacon Burger, going beyond questionable nutrition into the promotion of alcohol-based harm. Co-branding fast food with Budweiser is irresponsible and dangerous. On any given day, over a third of all children and adolescents—from age 2 to age 19—have eaten at a fast food restaurant. That number may be even higher in young adults; according to a 2013 Gallup poll, 57% of 18 to 29 year-olds consumed fast food at least weekly.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adolescents and young adults are extremely vulnerable to alcohol-related harms, both behavioral (e.g., drunk driving) and developmental (e.g., laying the groundwork for later alcoholism). So if youth and young adults are going to seek out fast food restaurants, prominently exhibiting beer logos further normalizes drinking, even building the expectation that a meal ought to be accompanied by alcohol.

Moreover, in this instance, the co-branding may give AB InBev (the makers of Bud)—and any global alcohol corporation that follow its lead—an excuse to overstep voluntary industry guidelines and/or local restrictions against youth marketing. Billboards for these alcohol-branded products could easily be placed in close proximity to schools and other youth-centered locations, since it’s "really" just an advertisement for a burger.

The Hardees/Carl's Jr. CEO, Andrew Puzder, who cynically employed this partnership, may well be promoted to Trump's Cabinet. A little over a month after his chains released the Budweiser® Beer Cheese Burger, Puzder was picked for Labor Secretary by President-Elect Donald Trump.

ad for the budweiser beer cheese bacon burger, to the shame of good beer cheese everywhereThere are suggestions that this outreach to vulnerable youth is intentional on behalf of Puzder. In the past, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. has been notorious for running overtly exploitative ads linking highly sexualized women to their products. When challenged by Entrepreneur, Puzder insisted the ads were “an appeal to youth, so it really reaches a broad demographic.” Studies on underage drinking show that no other brand is as often implicated in binge drinking as Bud. If the company is unapologetically conscious of the appeal sex has to an underage audience, it’s hard to give them a pass on the appeal of booze.

"This nefarious co-branding co-mingles hamburgers designed for youth with a product that should never be marketed to youth," said Bruce Lee Livingston, ED/CEO of Alcohol Justice. "We urge our members and colleagues to contact their members of Congress to condemn this deliberate and reckless disregard for youth, public health, and safety. While Alcohol Justice is not offering an opinion on Puzder's cabinet appointment, this is a golden opportunity for Congress to question him for his motives behind marketing alcohol taste and sexism via youth-oriented fast food.”

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress that marketing beer through fast food is a bad idea.

Top photo: food blogger Matt Zion, via Grubstreet.