CHICAGO (CBS) — A new trend lately involves adding alcohol to popular sports drinks, energy drinks, flavored waters, and other beverages.
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported Wednesday, an Illinois state emergency rule will stop stores from placing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages of the same brand right next to each other – and risking marketing alcohol to children.
In the refrigerator case at your local liquor or convenience store, you’ll likely find Jack Daniel’s mixed with Coca-Cola. While the product has the Jack Daniel’s whiskey logo on it, it also has the familiar script Coca-Cola logo – and some worry it could be confused with the plain old non-alcoholic soft drink.
That why the state’s emergency rule is now in place.
The state also raised concern with an advertisement posted on a store refrigerator case reading: “Hey Mom! We’re out of… SunnyD. Pick some up!!”
If mom didn’t notice the $10.99 price tag on the ad, this could cause a problem. The ad is not for the kind of SunnyD a kid would be asking mom to pick up – it’s for a variation that is spiked with vodka.
In this case, the SunnyD Vodka Seltzer was placed between two hard seltzers in the refrigerator case. But the Illinois Liquor Control Commission says it is just one example of confusing placement of “co-branded products” that warranted action.
“In some situations, in some instances, these cobranded products have nearly identical markings as the non-alcoholic products, so it’s creating a lot of confusion in the marketplace,” said Illinois Liquor Control Commission executive director Lisa Gardner.
Gardner supplied a photo that shows other examples that could cause confusion – Topo Chico mineral water versus Topo Chico tequila and lime; Arnold Palmer Half & Half iced tea and lemonade versus Arnold Palmer Spiked Half & Half iced tea and lemonade; Jarritos soda versus Jarritos’ Canta Rios hard soda.
“They’re being shelved next to children’s toys. You know, we’ve seen them next to soft drinks, snack foods, candy, and things that have youth-oriented images – including cartoons,” Gardner said.
Gardner showed one photo from a Walmart showing hard Mountain Dew shelved between snack foods. A photo from another store showed the hard Mountain Dew next to Gatorade and Pepsi – not in a liquor aisle.
Gardner said she knew the state needed to intervene when they started hearing concerns and complaints from those confused by such displays – including her own team members.
“My enforcement team – they started seeing a lot of problematic shelving themselves,” she said.
Under the emergency rule, establishments with retail sales floors of greater than 25,000 square feet may not put co-branded alcoholic beverages next to soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water, candy, snack foods, or foods advertised with cartoons or youth-oriented photos.
Small retailers that may not have the room to separate need to put up a sign like this one to designate the drink as alcoholic.
The rules don’t apply to liquor stores.
“If a store if found not to be in compliance, they are facing fines up to $500 per violation,” Gardner said.
The hope is that the new rule keeps a busy mom, or any distracted customer, picking up the wrong case of SunnyD.
“We filed the emergency rule because we wanted to be sure the proper safeguards were in place as soon as possible,” Gardner said.
The emergency rule is in place until the Oct. 23. Afterward, it will be up to state lawmakers to decide how to move forward.
Gardner encouraged people to reach out to make the rule permanent.
“Reach out, if they are in support of this rule, so we don’t have an issues passing the permanent rule,” she said.
Molina asked the Illinois Liquor Control Commission if there was a specific product, store, or incident that triggered the emergency rule.
The commission replied: “Last fall, new co-branded, ready to drink cocktails, hit the marketplace. Due to the nature of these co-branded products, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) took a proactive approach because the risk of a co-branded alcoholic beverage being mistakenly confused with a non-alcoholic beverage is preventable with proper product placement.”
Molina also asked why an emergency rule was warranted.
The commission replied: “The ILCC originally tried to pass legislation relating to these products (HB2502), and when the bill didn’t move, we had to find an alternative solution to the issue. We filed an emergency rule because we wanted to ensure the proper safeguards were in place as soon as possible. New co-branded alcoholic products continue to enter the marketplace, and the ILCC, which is tasked with protecting the health and safety of Illinois residents by way of responsible beverage control, had to find a way to mitigate the risks associated with the possibility that a distracted consumer could mistakenly purchase an alcoholic beverage thinking it was non-alcoholic, as well as prevent these products from being marketed to minors. We believe that the emergency rule, and subsequent permanent rule, does just that.”
Jewel-Osco said it is enforcing the new rule, which went into effect May 26.
“We notified our stores of this new requirement immediately after it went into effect and are diligently working to ensure all stores have implemented the requirement,” spokeswoman Mary Frances Trucco wrote by email.
We also reached out to the companies making the new co-branded alcoholic beverages.