The term 'alcopop' is used by advocates of tighter restrictions on alcoholic beverage sales, who argue that the beverages are especially appealing to underage drinkers. Other terms include FAB (flavored alcoholic beverage), FMB (flavored malt beverage), PPS (pre-packaged spirit or premium packaged spirits), and RTD (Ready To Drink - Aus & NZ).
Alcopops tend to be sweet and served in small bottles (typically 330 ml in Europe and 355 ml, the normal size of a soda pop can, in North America), and between 4% and 7% alcohol by volume. In Europe and Canada, alcopops tend to be pre-mixed spirits, including vodka (e.g. Smirnoff Ice) or rum (e.g. Bacardi Breezer). In the United States, alcopops are often un-hopped beers with added sugar, coloring and flavoring. Such drinks are legally classified as beers and can be sold in outlets that do not or cannot carry spirit-based drinks.
In the United States there is a proportionally limited tax on alcopops relative to those sold in Europe, though some states are considering legislation to bring their tax levels closer to the European model which is credited with limiting consumption by youth.
According to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB):
(70 Fed. Reg. 194 et seq. (January 3, 2005).)
Flavored malt beverages are brewery products that differ from traditional malt beverages such as beer, ale, lager, porter, stout, or malt liquor in several respects. Flavored malt beverages exhibit little or no traditional beer or malt beverage character. Their flavor is derived primarily from added flavors rather than from malt and other materials used in fermentation. At the same time, flavored malt beverages are marketed in traditional beer-type bottles and cans and distributed to the alcohol beverage market through beer and malt beverage wholesalers, and their alcohol content is similar to other malt beverages in the 4-6% alcohol by volume range.
Although flavored malt beverages are produced at breweries, their method of production differs significantly from the production of other malt beverages and beer. In producing flavored malt beverages, brewers brew a fermented base of beer from malt and other brewing materials. Brewers then treat this base using a variety of processes in order to remove malt beverage character from the base. For example, they remove the color, bitterness, and taste generally associated with beer, ale, porter, stout, and other malt beverages. This leaves a base product to which brewers add various flavors, which typically contain distilled spirits, to achieve the desired taste profile and alcohol level.
While the alcohol content of flavored malt beverages is similar to that of most traditional malt beverages, the alcohol in many of them is derived primarily from the distilled spirits component of the added flavors rather than from fermentation.
In some Continental European countries, such as Austria and Germany, bottled beer cocktails are available, which are being marketed the same way like alcopops. However, these beverages are based on traditional hopped beers and therefore not considered to be alcopops.
Some have expressed concern that such drinks might appeal to children as they tend to be sweet and brightly colored. Many alcopop advertising campaigns have been criticized as trying to make alcopops appeal to young drinkers. In the United Kingdom, that led to a media outcry during the mid-1990s as the tabloid press associated alcopops with under-age drinking which damaged sales and would lead to off-licences withdrawing them from their stores.
In response to a complaint from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conducted an extensive investigation in 2001. The agency "found no evidence of intent to target minors with the FMB products, packaging, or advertising. Furthermore, after reviewing the consumer survey evidence submitted by CSPI in support of the proposition that FMBs were predominantly popular with minors, the FTC concluded that flaws in the survey's methodology limited the ability to draw conclusions from the survey data."
The Federal Trade Commission again in 2003 investigated FMB ads, product placement, and internal company marketing documents after a directive from the conferees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. "The Commission’s investigation found no evidence of targeting underage consumers in the marketing of FMBs. Adults 21 to 29 appear to be the intended target of FMB marketing and found that "the majority of FMB drinkers are over the age of 27."
Nevertheless concern remains. In December 2003, Ireland raised the tax on alcopops to equal that of spirits, the second highest in Europe. Germany has imposed an extra duty of 0.80 to 0.90 euro per bottle effective August 1, 2004. To circumvent higher taxation, some German producers have switched to wine coolers, which are being marketed the same way. Some bottles now carry a warning stating that they are not for consumption by people under the legal drinking age (under 18 in the UK and 21 in the United States). On May 11, 2008, the Australian Government increased the excise tax on alcopops by 70%, to bring it inline with the tax on spirits. There is the concern this tax will encourage consumers to buy straight spirits and mix the drinks themselves, possibly resulting in drinks with a higher alcohol concentration than the premixed alternatives.
The Federal Trade Commission report states, "Further, industry-conducted research on consumers over the age of 21 who use FMBs shows that these consumers generally view the FMBs as substitutes for beer, ... This research also concludes that consumers are not likely to consume more than two or three FMBs on any occasion because of the products’ sweetness.
Under Australian taxation rules these drinks have a 70% sales tax in an attempt to deter binge drinking
The law governing alcopop marketing in the state of Illinois (United States) is 235 ILCS 5/6‑35.
On October 1, 2008 Utah will allow sales only in state run liquor stores.
|Creator||Base||Sold mixed with||Sold in||D/C*|
|Black Douglas||Black Douglas||Scotch Whisky||?|
|Bundaberg Rum||Bundaberg Rum||Rum|
|Canadian Club||Canadian Club||Rye whiskey||?||?|
|Country Coolers||Jack Daniels||Beer|
|Hooper's Hooch||Bass Brewery||Vodka|
|Jack Daniels||Jack Daniels||Bourbon Whiskey|
|Jewel Isle Rum Punch||Jewel Isle Productions||Rum|
|Jim Beam||Jim Beam||Bourbon Whiskey|
|Johnnie Walker||Johnnie Walker||Scotch whisky|
|Mike's Hard Lemonade||Mike's Hard Lemonade Co||Vodka|
|Red Square||Halewood International||Rum, Schnapps, Vodka,|
|UDL||UDL||Scotch whisky, Rum, Vodka, Ouzo|
|Vodka Cruiser||Independent Liquor||Vodka||?|
|Vodka Mudshake||Independent Liquor||Vodka|
|Vodka Kick||Global Brands||Vodka|
|White Mountain Coolers||Stroh Brewery Company||Beer|
|Wild Turkey||Wild Turkey||Bourbon Whiskey|
|WKD Original Vodka||WKD||Vodka|
|Zima XXX||Coors Brewing Company||Beer|
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