MillerCoors is feeling the heat of 25 state Attorneys General and a watchdog group over plans to launch a new version of its Sparks energy drink with a higher alcohol level. The brand extension, named Sparks Red, would further solidify the company's hold on the category. One reason is that it has little competition in that space as Anheuser- Busch decided to exit the category following pressure from an advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI is now targeting CoorsMiller, having filed a lawsuit last week to stop the sale of Sparks. The lawsuit cites health risks and a strategy of targeting teens as reasons for taking Sparks off the market. Now, the AGs have written to MillerCoors to express their concerns about Sparks Red and hinted at possible action against the company.
MillerCoors is in a difficult situation. On one hand, it cannot ignore concerns about Sparks or engage in an adversarial debate that could appear to promote profits over the well being of consumers. On the other hand, profit is an issue. Sparks has been a successful product for MillerCoors, so exiting the category completely is a difficult choice. What is the solution? MillerCoors could become proactive in promoting responsible consumption of Sparks, going above and beyond the usual "drink responsibly" messages from beer marketers. Even if it takes that step, it is going to be a tough sell to convince people that the benefits delivered by alcoholic energy drinks outweigh potential hazards to the health of those who drink them.
Link: AdAge.com - "Attorneys General Set Out to Stop Sparks Product Launch"
Link: Center for Science in the Public Interest - "CSPI Sues to Stop Miller Coors' 'Sparks' Alcoholic Energy Drink"
Labels: Marketing and Public Policy