September 17th, 2008

Attorneys General Set Out to Stop Sparks Product Launch

By Jeremy Mullman
Advertising Age

Blast MillerCoors for Higher-Alcohol Version of Energy Drink

A group of 25 attorneys general today asked MillerCoors not to introduce a higher-alcohol version of its controversial Sparks energy drink, setting the stage for a potential legal showdown that could have broad ramifications for the future of the category.

The move follows last week’s lawsuit by activist group Center for Science in the Public Interest against MillerCoors over Sparks. In that suit, CSPI charged that the brand poses health risks, uses unapproved additives and employs marketing techniques that target teens.

The attorneys general wrote Miller concerning Sparks Red, which has more alcohol than regular Sparks.

“By introducing Sparks Red, a higher-alcohol-content and even more dangerous version of its Sparks product, MillerCoors is demonstrating an utter disregard for the safety of young consumers,” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “Drinking is not a sport, and my office will not stand idly by as MillerCoors ramps up its efforts to market these potentially harmful products to young consumers.”

‘Recipe for disaster’
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called Sparks Red a “recipe for disaster.”

A Miller spokesman said the company had just received the letter and intended to review it. “We look forward to engaging in a dialogue with Attorney General Cuomo and his colleagues,” he said.

The introduction of Sparks Red remains set for Oct. 1.

Earlier this year, CSPI persuaded Anheuser-Busch to stop selling alcoholic energy drinks. A-B, however, has not had any brand in the segment that has done as well as Sparks, which Miller Brewing Co. purchased as part of a $215 million deal in 2006.

Miller entered a joint venture with Coors Brewing Co. earlier this summer. Coors had no alcoholic energy drink brands.

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