This is not a travel piece but it is something I have recently become passionate about and since I am footloose and can scribble about anything, I am posting it here.
While the nation has been focused on the dangers of e-cigarette companies marketing flavored products to children, another industry has been guilty of the same type of marketing – the liquor industry with their new fruit flavored vodkas. One brand in particular, New Amsterdam by E.&J. Gallo, features clear bottles of fruit flavored vodka packaged to look like flavored drinking water.
In June 2017, New Amsterdam launched a marketing campaign aimed specifically at the millennial market. According to a post by Dale Buss of the Brandchannel blog, Michael Sachs, director of spirits marketing for New Amsterdam said, “We believe there is still a large share of the millennial market we’d like to reach and convert to be loyal consumers. We have such a vast distribution network throughout the country, and now it’s time to match that with a significant marketing effort.”
Companies like New Amsterdam surely know that marketing to millennials also includes marketing to teens, though Michael Sachs is careful to say they are reaching out to “consumers between 21-29.” The 2017 marketing launch by New Amsterdam was called “Pour Your Soul Out” and besides TV ads and a spot during the NBA finals, the launch included an extensive social media campaign on sites including Youtube, Snapchat and Instagram – all social media platforms favored by teens.
New Amsterdam has shaped their product to attract millennials, and by default, young people. They have a “portfolio” of nine fruit flavored vodkas such as Lemon, Raspberry and Peach, all packaged in clear bottles with a marked resemblance to bottled water. It looks healthy and natural and the teens love it.
Studies have not yet been done on the number of teenagers drinking fruit flavored vodkas, but anecdotally, fruity vodkas are all the rage. This is the drink of choice at high school and college parties. The parties no longer feature keggers (and for the real ragers occasional shots of vodka), instead they all drink partially filled cups of fruity vodka, which, according to the label on the back of the bottle is “smooth enough to drink straight.” One shot of vodka is equal to one 12 oz beer but the kids don’t stop at one shot. Many of them binge drink. The Centers for Disease Control state that “people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.” Our teens are binge drinking fruit flavored vodka.
E.&J. Gallo’s marketing works. Statista.com shows that in five years New Amsterdam Spirit’s volume sales in the US more than doubled from just under 2 million in 2013 to 5.3 million 9 liter cases in 2018.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that teenage drinking among high school students “ declined significantly ” between 1991 and 2015, no one knows the current rate of underage consumption and the problem remains – teens are drinking harder stuff.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “the younger youth initiate alcohol use, the greater their risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD) later in life. Underage drinking can increase psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, lead to risky physical and sexual behavior and suicide. Drinking too much alcohol at one time can lead to alcohol poisoning and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs in 2010.”
Underage drinking has always been a problem and will continue to be a problem, but we do not have to tolerate an encouragement of drinking through the marketing campaigns of companies like New Amsterdam. The electronic cigarette company Juul, has voluntarily suspended sales of flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products after several states banned their products and the Trump administration threatened a nationwide ban. The same pressure can be applied to New Amsterdam and other companies, such as Ketel One and Smirnoff, which sell fruit flavored vodkas. Through political activism, social media outreach and the press, society can affect change. But the most important act we can do is to talk with our teens and warn them about the allure of fruity vodka and the very real dangers of drinking alcohol.