When you make an alcoholic drink that’s designed for kids, you’re treading on very shaky moral ground. After a 14-year-old girl died, the Québec-based company Groupe Geloso said it would no longer produce the caffeine-alcohol drink.
The drink was never explicitly targeted for teens, but the signals were there if you know where to look for them. The drink was very sweet, had a caffeine content to boost energy, and was packaged in brightly-colored cans resembling energy drinks or soda. The name of the drink was FCKD UP, and it had 11.9 percent alcohol by volume.
The company claimed it put out the drink to compete with an American brand, Four Loko, which has a similar formula. In the US it sells some drinks with an ABV as high as 14 percent.
Putting aside for a second the fact that both drink names refer to being drunk, crazy or out of control, it’s clear that the packaging and formula are both tailored to young drinkers. Casual adult drinkers don’t usually opt for caffeine in their cocktail – they’re out to relax. Getting drunk as a preparation for energetic pursuits is typical with underage drinkers.
A 2016 US study found that Canada had the highest percentage of roadway deaths linked to alcohol impairment.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada notes that auto crashes are the number one cause of death among Canadians aged 16 to 25, and more than half of those involve alcohol or drugs.
Halting the production of one drink brand won’t turn that around by itself. But it does strike a blow for accountability. Groupe Geloso did the right thing, and stores should consider dropping the other brands of teen-friendly alcoholic drinks as well. A hat tip to Groupe Geloso for putting people before profits.