Sparks remains as Miller sticks with caffeinated beer

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer, Us

The Miller Brewing Company will not be following in the footsteps
of rivals by reformulating its caffeinated alcohol brands in the
US, claiming the products are fully compliant with regulatory and
labelling guidelines in the country.

Last week, Anheuser-Busch, which manufactures the Budweiser beer brand, said it would be removing caffeine, guarana, and ginseng from its malt beverage brands like Tilt and Bud Extra. The move signals the growing pressure on manufacturers of similar caffeinated products from both consumers and government to do the same thing. Caffeinated alcohol, like beer-based malted beverages, is bearing the brunt of US concerns over the alcohol content and availability of the products to young people, which could yet have ramifications for European drinks groups. Sparks​ However, Miller, which has been selling the Sparks alcohol brand nationwide since 2006, said the company would not be reviewing its strategy over the manufacture of caffeinated alcohol as it sees strong potential in the market. "The brand and its labelling have received approval from the federal government,"​ group spokesperson Julian Green told BeverageDaily.com. "While we continue to work with authorities on this issue, as well as our own responsible drinking initiatives, we are also protecting our right to innovation."​ Green said that the caffeinated beverage provided a growing opportunity to meet consumer's demands for new types of product in the beer market Self-regulation​ The company claimed that as part of its portfolio-wide policy of self-regulation, it was also committed to ensuring that it promotes the products and work with retailers to avoid any confusion amongst young people between Sparks and traditional energy drinks. "On the actual product packaging itself, we mention that it contains alcohol at least four times on the label,"​ he stated. Green added that these guidelines for the Sparks brand differed marginally, if at all, from the guidelines the company says it uses on all its beer products. CSPI concerns​ Despite Miller's claims, consumer advocacy group the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) believes there are a number of specific concerns over the sale of caffeinated alcohol, which it claims have been found in a study to encourage binge drinking, injury and sexual assault amongst young people. The CSPI said it had been working with Anheuser-Busch over removing ingredients such as caffeine, guarana, and ginseng from its brands with the support of 11 state Attorneys General, which had been investigating the group. CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner said that the action of some US attorneys had been an important step in raising its fears over the combination of caffeine and alcohol. "Not for the first time, state Attorneys General have filled a gaping void left by disinterested federal officials, who should have cracked down on these particular products long ago,"​ said Gardner. "Frankly, Miller Brewing is lurching on very thin legal ice if they continue to market these dangerous drinks." ​ While the action of Budweiser in reformulating, along with much of the controversy of caffeinated beer drinks relates to the US market, some health experts that wider global implications may be inevitable. European impact​ Speaking to BeverageDaily.com earlier this year Anders Ulstein, board member of European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), said that although US policy developments rarely have an influence on European legislation, the potential effects on the policies of global bodies this time could be more significant. "[The] main impact [of the criticism] is to the extent it changes the perspectives of US federal authorities, which is very important at World Health Organisation level, where the US is presently seen as a supporter of the industry,"​ he said.

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