Were Spykes and Wide Eye bad products? Do you think they were marketed in objectionable or misleading ways? Do you think companies should be allowed to market other caffeinated alcoholic beverages?
Spykes and Wide Eye were innovative products. Spykes was an effort by Anheuser-Busch to compete for younger drinkers increasingly attracted to novel distilled spirits products. Wide Eye, a caffeinated schnapps beverage was an example. Both sought to capitalize on market trends including caffeination, sweet and fruity flavors, and unconventional ingredients such as ginseng, guarana, and ginkgo biloba. Sales of products in the caffeinated alcoholic beverage category were growing and several dozen brands had appeared. These were “good” products in the sense that they fulfilled consumer needs.
The very traits that made Spykes, Wide-Eye, and the others “good” in the market stigmatized them among antialcohol crusaders. Features that attracted young drinkers such as inviting flavors, small containers, large containers, garish container labels, and Web sites with adolescent themes and imagery were red flags. The use of caffeine was another red flag. Its stimulant action was said to mask impairment for inexperienced drinkers. In short, anything that made this new alcoholic beverage alluring to its target audience was damning to antialcohol groups.
Soon caffeinated alcoholic beverages were demonized in the media. Politicians attacked their manufacturers and passed laws restricting or prohibiting their use. In 2009 the Food and Drug Administration sent letters to 27 companies asking them to explain why caffeine was a safe ingredient in their products. Then in 2010 the agency sent letters to four manufacturers saying they had failed to show that caffeine was a safe ingredient and it was recommending that consumers avoid them. The companies were given 15 days to respond before the agency sought a court order to stop the sale of their caffeinated products....
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