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Underage US drinkers prefer Bud Light, Smirnoff, Budweiser: Study

By Ben Bouckley+

19-Feb-2013

Bud Light topped study tables as the most widely and frequently consumed brand (Picture Copyright: Mike Burns)
Bud Light topped study tables as the most widely and frequently consumed brand (Picture Copyright: Mike Burns)

Bud Light, Smirnoff malt beverages and Budweiser were the brands most widely consumed by by 1000+ underage US drinkers over a 30-day period, according to the authors of a new study who claim to be the first to assess nationwide data.

Writing in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, lead author Professor Michael Siegel (Boston University School of Public Health) and colleagues claimed to be the first to collect national data on brand-specific alcohol consumption among US youth.

They said their work could prompt a public health focus targeting specific brands via prevention policies, and new research on the impact of alcohol advertising on youth brand preference.

Explaining the basis for their research, the academics said that underage drinking was a major public health concern in the US, since more than 70% of high school students had drunk alcohol, while around 22% engaged in heavy episodic drinking (Eaton et al. 2012).

“Existing national surveys of alcohol use among underage youth have collected data at the level of the alcoholic beverage type (beer, spirits, wine, etc.), but never at the level of alcohol brand (Bud Light beer, Grey Goose vodka, Bacardi rum, etc.) or even liquor subtype,” Siegel et al. wrote.

Relatively small brand pool

A 2004 National Academy of Sciences report recommended that the federal government collect data on brand preference among underage drinkers – to determine the influence of alcohol marketing on youth – Siegel et al., said, but no such work had been done.

1032 underage youths (13-20) responded to Siegel et al. last year via online questionnaires that assessed their consumption of 898 alcohol brands among 16 alcoholic beverage types over the previous 30 days, including the frequency and amount of each brand consumed.

The team said its “major finding” was that, although alcohol consumption was spread out over a number of beverage types, it was grouped among a relatively small number of brands.

The top 25 brands consumed (all household names) accounted for around half of all alcohol consumption by volume, they found.

Bud Light was the brand drunk by most respondents (27.9%; 6.4% market share) then Smirnoff malt beverages (17%; 2.9% share) and Budweiser (14.6%; 3%); Smirnoff vodkas (12.7%; 1.4%), Coors Light (12.7%; 2%) and Jack Daniel’s Bourbon (11.4%; 1.6%).

Most popular alcoholic drink types

The most common alcohol beverage types among underage drinkers were beer (68.9%) and spirits (69.7%), followed by flavored alcoholic beverages (49.9%), then wine (31.6%).

The market share figures (glossed briefly two pars above, tabulated in the study) reflect consumption frequency vis-a-vis other brands: the total number of times subjects drank a given brand over 30 days, divided by the total number of drinks consumed for all brands.

Siegel et al. said that response rates of 43% for 18-20 year olds and 44% for 13-17 year old lent the possibility of non-response bias, with fewer responses from Black and lower-income youth.  

Thus, the academics weighted survey responses from these respondents more heavily, to address possible brand and market bias towards White, middle- and upper-income youth.

“Non-response bias does not threaten the validity of our basic finding that underage alcohol use is concentrated among a relatively small number of brands,” Siegel et al. added.

Title: ‘Brand Specific Consumption of Alcohol Among Underage Youth in the United States’

Authors: Siegel. M, DeJong, W., Naimi, T.S. Fortunato, E.K., Albers, A.B., Heeren, T., Rosenbloom, D.L., Ross, C., Ostroff, J., Rodkin, S., King, C., Borzekowski, D.L.G., Rimal, R.N., Padon, A.A., Eck, R.H., Jemigan, D.H.

Source: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, published online February 7 2013. DOI: 10.1111/acer.12084