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Loss of Mojo? Not a Problem.

MojoApril 26, 2013

Next time anyone in New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina, or Connecticut goes to grab a bottle of water from the cooler, they'd better triple-check to make sure they don't accidentally get a fruity drink with 7% alcohol by volume. That's right, we're talking about a new alcopop product, designed to resemble the most popular of all beverages: water. After finding that markets for alcopops that look like sodasjuice pouches, and even popsicles were all spoken for, an alcohol producer stepped in to take it where no self-respecting company had dared to go.  


Mojo Alternative Malt Beverages comes in various fruit flavors - Tropical Fruit, Strawberry Kiwi, and Fruit Punch - and its packaging is almost indistinguishable from popular flavored waters like Vitamin Water and Hint. In true traditional alcopop form, the added sugar masks the alcohol taste, carbonation is added to make it fizzy, and it's cheap. The producer, Blue Spike Beveragestouts the plastic water bottle packaging as a design to ensure "no breakage when you're out tearing it up on the dance floor." Blue Spike also touts the resealable bottle for decreasing spillage (take note, FTC). Young people are already proclaiming it "the chick drink of the future" for being cheap and tasting "like slurpees." Its U.S. distributor, Irokos Group LLC, admitted the drink was designed for the female market, and the bottle made very slim for that purpose.

Should drinkers feel like a youth-friendly alcopop drink is beneath them, Blue Spike also makes theMojo Shot product line of spirits - currently available in Rhode Island and Massachusetts convenience stores.

Fortunately, at least one state has caught on to Mojo alcopop and its bottled-water resemblance. The New Hampshire Liquor Commission recently decided to deny a license to bring the product into the state, with liquor officials warning that "[t]hese products are clear liquid, resembling water and are packaged in containers that resemble specialty water products...The lettering stating alcohol content and alcohol percentage are not easily seen and the container could easily be thought to contain non-alcoholic product." Still, at least six states have agreed to allow Mojo so far, and others may follow suit. Instead of simply rubber-stamping Mojo and other youth-oriented product entries into stores, we hope other states will follow New Hampshire's example. State alcohol commissions can, and should, put their foot down and halt products with marketing, packaging, and characteristics that cross the line of public safety. 

For A-B InBev, Marriage Equality = Beer

BudEqualityPicApril 4, 2013
  
In the last few weeks, support for marriage equality rolled through Facebook and prompted millions of users to change their profile pictures to the red and pink equality symbol from the Human Rights Campaign. Unfortunately, A-B InBev has taken an important social movement and turned it into just another opportunity to make money from its products that cause so much harm, especially for the LGBT community. The Belgian beer conglomerate altered the HRC's logo to highlight two Bud Light beer cans, then posted the doctored image to the Bud Light official Facebook page.


While A-B InBev taking every possible opportunity to promote its brands is neither surprising nor anything new, this particular move seems like even more of a slick grab for attention that degrades the millions of Americans who are fighting for the issue of marriage equality on a real, substantive level. (Even more embarrassing for the conglomerate is the fact that A-B InBev is not even among the list of 278 major employers  who filed a brief publicly opposing DOMA and argued that it is bad for business.)

Obviously there is no limit to A-B InBev's audacity and the lengths it will go to promote its products. While it co-opts the HRC marriage equality logo for Bud Light, alcohol and related harm continues to be a major health concern for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially LGBT youth. And A-B InBev still remains a primary sponsor of the UFC, whose president and various "athletes" came under fire last year for homophobic, sexist, violent, and derogatory remarks.

Equality? Human rights? Not so much.

   

Hot in Hollywood: Celebs Shilling for - and Owning - Alcohol Brands

PDiddyCirocMarch 18, 2013

The latest hot trend among Hollywood's biggest names is not launching their own perfume or creating a designer collaboration at Target - it's much more dangerous than that. No, the latest Hollywood phenomenon is celebrity-branded booze. From liqueur to limoncello, wine to whiskey - it seems like everyone who is anyone is jumping on the booze train. 
 
The trend spans all sectors of the entertainment industry. Musicians seem to lead the way, with entertainers as diverse as Hanson (MMMHop IPA), Sean Combs (Ciroc Vodka), Willlie Nelson (Whiskey River Bourbon), Ludacris (Conjure Cognac), Marilyn Manson (Mansinthe), Justin Timberlake (901 Silver Tequila) all shilling for brands. Actors like Dan Ackroyd (Crystal Head Vodka) and Danny Devito (Danny DeVito Limoncello) have gotten into the game. Media and reality television stars like Donald Trump (Trump Super Premium Vodka) and Bethenny Frankel (Skinny Girl Cocktails) can't be left out. Even the fashion set is throwing their hats in the ring as Roberto Cavalli has done with his namesake vodka. Not to be left out, professional sports stars are now starting brands as well. Basketball start Yao Ming now owns Yao Family Wines, which operates in China. 
 
The ownership arrangements of these brands are as diverse as the celebrities themselves. Some lend their name and time to promoting them in return for a big paycheck, as Snoop Dogg does with Blast by Colt 44 (Pabst). Some own the companies outright, like Justin Timberlake and Roberto Cavalli. Some even share ownership of their brands with Big Alcohol heavyweights, like P. Diddy's 50-50 ownership split of Ciroc with Diageo. In the end, some sell their alcohol company in its entirety to a Big(ger) Alcohol corporation, the way Bethanny Frankel did with Skinnygirl (sold to Beam Global in 2011) and Sammy Hagar did with his Cabo Wabo Tequila (sold to Campari/Skyy in 2009).
 
The phenomenon of celebrity entertainers promoting alcohol brands is clearly dangerous to public health. Celebrities send the message that alcohol is cool, sexy, and socially desirable. As public figures, celebrities are admired and celebrated by their many fans, many of whom are children. And when celebrities own alcohol brands, and sell those brands to bigger alcohol corporations for millions, it sends an even worse message. That is one true Hollywood story without a happy ending in sight.