Anheuser-Busch to stop producting alcohol-containing energy drinks

By Chris Amico | Jun 26, 2008

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Legal Newsline)--Anheuser-Busch will stop producing alcoholic energy drinks, ceding to pressure from 11 state attorneys general who said the beverages were targeted at minors, officials announced Thursday.

Tilt and Bud Extra, the two lines under scrutiny, contained both alcohol and caffeine. The St. Louis, Mo.-based beer giant will reformulate both drinks, removing stimulants. Both drinks will remain on shelves, the company said in a statement.

Anheuser-Busch marketed both drinks as a way to party through the night, but health experts questioned their effect on the body.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown pointed to a November 2007 study by Wake Forest University of Medicine, which found that the combination of alcohol and caffeine sent mixed signals to the drinker's nervous system, leading to a state of being "wide awake drunk."

The drinks were popular among students, and were especially dangerous because they can keep an individual from feeling inebriated even at high blood alcohol levels.

"These drinks contain substantially more caffeine than coffee or soda and are marketed to be consumed in combination with other alcoholic beverages," Gary King, the attorney general of New Mexico, said. "The marketing message is clear--if you drink these products you can party longer and drink more. This is an inappropriate message targeted at young audiences."

Further, the states accused Anheuser-Busch of marketing the drinks to teens and underage drinkers who might confuse Tilt or Bud Extra with a non-alcoholic energy drink.

In a statement, Anheuser-Busch stressed that it had violated no laws and rejected accusations it marketed the drinks to youth. There was no TV and little print or radio advertising for Tilt or Bud Extra, the company said. Their Web sites were limited and garnered few visitors.

It pointed out that there is nothing new about mixing uppers and downers.

"We know that adults will continue to drink caffeinated cocktails like rum and Coke, coffee martinis and Red Bull and vodka," the statement said. "Nevertheless, we have determined that competing in the pre-packaged caffeinated alcohol beverage sector may detract from our reputation as the global industry leader in promoting responsibility among adults who drink and discouraging underage drinking."

A year ago, 29 state attorneys general warned Anheuser-Busch that its packaging looked too much like Rockstar or Red Bull, drinks that only contain stimulants, Bloomberg News reported at the time.

Earlier this year, 11 states sought documents related to sales and marketing of the beverages from Anheuser-Busch, as well as rival brewer Miller Brewing Co., which makes a similar drink called Sparks.

Marketing that promoted the alleged energy component of the drinks made the drinks appealing to teens, Brown said in a statement, adding that the company advertised Bud Extra with taglines such as "You can sleep when you're 30" and "Say hello to a night of fun" and utilized MySpace, YouTube.

AB also agreed to shut down the Tilt Web site: The site's URL returned no result Thursday.

Both Anheuser-Busch and the attorneys general said the company fully cooperated with the investigation.

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