From concerned parents to wholesalers and state lawmakers, soda-alcohol crossover products are causing quite a stir. Now, a proposed set of state bills could legally regulate the retail placement of RTDs such as Hard Mtn Dew and Simply Spiked Lemonade.
Two new bills introduced in the Virginia General Assembly aim to set guidelines for stores selling brands that include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions under similar branding, according to Pluribus News. Virginia is the first state to pursue legal regulation of the placement of crossover beverages; if passed, these bills could set a precedent for more states to follow suit.
Democratic senator and Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee chair Barbara Favola sponsors the Senate bill, while Republican representative James Leftwich sponsors the House bill. The bills are also supported by Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors, and the Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association.
Both bills passed in their respective chambers with almost unanimous approval.
Independent wholesalers from across the United States submitted a letter to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau (TTB) in mid-December, citing consumer confusion between the products as a cause for concern. In-store advertising, shelf placement, and proximity to children’s toys are listed as causes for concern in the complaint.
Authority voices in the spirits industry have also issued ethical — albeit not legally binding — guidelines for retailers.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) issued “responsible marketing guidance” in December 2022, which outlines several product development and retail-level practices to deter consumer confusion. Protocol includes distinguishable packaging between non-alcoholic and alcoholic versions, clearly-marked alcohol content on marketing materials, appropriate shelf placement, and communication with employees on these product differences.
Despite all the legal and ethical buzz, Hard Mtn Dew producer Boston Beer Company is reporting favorable revenue for the brand. While it’s only distributed in 11 states, the company sold 1.46 million cases last year, per Beer Market Insights’ Feb 21 newsletter.
In an earnings call, CEO Dave Burwick shared that Boston Beer intends to expand the brand’s availability to a total of 25–30 states in 2023.