Two states are cracking down on alcoholic beverages that they say could be mistaken for juice, especially by parents looking for something suitable for their kids.
Multiple beverage companies have introduced boozy versions of longstanding non-alcoholic drinks. Molson Coors worked with Coca-Cola last year to release Simply Spiked, a line of beverages that takes the fruit juice brand owned by Coke and adds alcohol. There’s also SunnyD Vodka Seltzer, made by Harvest Hill Beverage Company and on shelves since March, as well as Hard Mountain Dew, which is made by PepsiCo and the Boston Beer Company.
The boozy beverages often use the same logos and other branding as their kid-friendly counterparts, though with additions like the word “spiked” and information like the alcohol content, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. Regulators in two states say the beverages are similar enough that they need to be placed far away from each other at stores.
The Illinois Liquor Control Commission issued a rule in May that instructed retailers to put the alcoholic beverages far away from the original ones, according to the Journal. In some cases, the beverages had been placed next to the non-alcoholic versions at stores. The Journal also cited one instance where cans of Hard Mountain Dew were stocked next to Hot Wheels toys.
“We were really concerned that busy parents, busy caregivers, busy shoppers, as they traversed the marketplace, were inadvertently grabbing the wrong thing,” Lisa Gardner, executive director of the Illinois Commission, told the Journal. Virginia enacted a similar law in July.
Insider reached out to the companies involved in making these beverages, including Coca-Cola, Molson Coors, Harvest Hill, PepsiCo and Boston Beer. Harvest Hill, which makes SunnyD Vodka Seltzer, pointed to the words “Vodka” and “contains alcohol” on its packaging for the beverage.
“We have rigorously followed responsible practices in marketing it to adults in both our messaging and channels of communication,” a company spokesperson told Insider. Harvest Hill also “works with its distributors and retailers to shelve and display this product in the appropriate section of their stores, away from the base SunnyD all-family juice brand.”
A spokesman for Molson Coors told Insider that the company’s guidelines “stipulate that these brands can’t be jointly marketed or included in promotional activity together.”
“Every can of Simply Spiked features messaging that states the product contains alcohol, and that same message is included in multiple locations on every pack, on our point-of-sale advertising and in our marketing campaigns,” the spokesperson added.
The other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Drinks like Hard Mountain Dew and SunnyD Vodka Seltzer have drawn criticism from consumer advocacy groups and public health experts for years. Sugary and fruity alcoholic beverages, such as White Claw hard seltzer, began to gain popularity at the end of the last decade.
Besides potentially causing confusion, the beverages’ sweet tastes make it easy to down one — or several — compared to traditional alcoholic beverages like beer.
“The carbonation and sugar content can make it taste like you aren’t drinking alcohol,” Pamela Trangenstein, a scientist at California’s Public Health Institute, told the New York Times in February.