Lemon-flavored drinks under fire

Critics see underage drinkers flocking to sweeter beverages

Oct 2, 2000 - The growing popularity of lemon-flavored alcoholic beverages has come under fire from critics who say the drinks appeal to underage drinkers.


Lemon-flavored drinks spiked with about as much alcohol as beer are growing in sales after major alcoholic beverage powers like Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing and Seagram took notice of their market appeal. Similar drinks marketed in Britain in the mid-90s were called "alcopops" by critics who said they appealed those below the legal drinking age.

"This is a drink that is going to popular with kids, and a responsible marketer of alcohol should not be marketing it," said James Mosher, senior policy adviser at the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, based in San Rafael, Calif.

The drinks -- which go by names such as Mike's Hard Lemonade, Rick's Spiked Lemonade, Doc Otis' Hard Lemon Flavored Malt Beverage and Hooper's Hooch Lemon Brew -- are about 5% alcohol by weight. Their makers note they list the alcohol content on the labels. They say they're not aiming at youngsters but rather at adults who seek variety in beverages and may even spike their own lemonade at home.

Sales of hard lemonade rose fourfold last year to 4.1 million cases worth about $90 million at retail, according to the trade publication Impact. Miller Brewing Co., whose Henry Weinhard division introduced Henry's Hard Lemonade in five Pacific Northwest states last month, expects the market could reach $350 million nationally by the end of this year, spokeswomen Kary McGrath said.

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