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Ohio blasts new alcoholic drink

Tyler Joswick / Asst. photo editor

Lawmakers around the country are blasting a new, controversial alcoholic beverage that hit stores in April.

On Thursday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, along with at least 15 other states’ attorneys general, urged Pabst Brewing Company to change the formula and marketing strategy of Blast, an alcoholic drink produced under the Colt 45 label.

“The marketing is to a young audience and potentially to those who aren’t even of age, and the formulation is basically like drinking four beers at once,” said Lisa Hackley, DeWine’s spokeswoman.

Just like Four Loko, Blast is 12 percent alcohol by volume and is sold in 23.5-ounce cans. Its four flavors are blueberry pomegranate, strawberry lemonade, grape and raspberry watermelon.

The alcohol content and the marketing are the major concerns with the drink, Hackley said.

But rapper Snoop Dogg endorses Blast.

“They have a hip hop spokesperson. It’s brightly colored. Clearly, they’re targeting a younger demographic,” Hackley said.

Snoop Dogg’s representatives did not return comment.

Pabst spokesman Sean Fitzgerald said only Pabst executives could comment on the drink “since this is a business situation.”

“That’s marketing for you,” said Musie Woldeab, a third-year in computer and information science. Woldeab said he doesn’t think anyone over the age of 25 will drink it.

Pabst representatives, however, do not see a problem with their marketing, chief marketing officer for Pabst Jon Sayer said in an email. He said the company is targeting only those over the age of 21.

“Blast is produced only for consumers above legal drinking age and is marketed as such,” Sayer said. “Its alcohol content is clearly marked on its packaging, it is sold exclusively in sections of stores that sell beverages with alcohol and its promotional effort is fully focused on initiatives geared toward adults.”

Neil Yohannes, a first-year in finance, said he has seen the drink but won’t try it. He said he thinks the alcohol content in Blast is too much. He doesn’t have a problem with Pabst’s marketing tactics, however.

“The people I see drinking it are in their 20s. No one’s forcing them to drink it; (Pabst) can market it how they want,” Yohannes said.

Fitzgerald said Pabst had not yet responded to the attorney general.

“The bottom line is essentially we are following all laws in all the states in which we operate. We are not operating illegally by any means,” Fitzgerald said.

Hackley said they hope Pabst will change its formula but would not discuss legal strategies in the event that Pabst doesn’t comply with recommendations.

Sayer said the company will continue to promote responsible drinking.

“As with all Pabst products, Blast is actively promoting the message of drinking responsibly, and to that end, we are encouraging consumers to drink in moderation and consider mixing Blast with other beverages or pouring it over ice, and we are offering a special seven-ounce bottle for those who prefer a smaller quantity,” Sayer said. “Together with our distribution and retail partners, we will actively pursue opportunities to ensure it is enjoyed properly by the right audience.”

In November, the Food and Drug Administration declared Four Loko, a similar alcoholic drink, unsafe and required the caffeine be removed from the product. Fans of the drink, which include many OSU students, began stocking up while they could still get the caffeinated version. Unlike Four Loko, Blast is caffeine-free. Four Loko is now available without the stimulants caffeine, taurine and guarana.

Blast came out April 4, and some campus-area stores, including Campus Corner, Campus Liquor and Speedway on Lane Avenue, don’t carry it.

Campus Corner employee Josh Levine said the store doesn’t sell Blast because they “don’t have the room and Four Loko sells good.”

Rick’s Beverage Center on Olentangy River Road, however, is choosing to carry the drink.

The drink is “selling good,” said Ketn Cheel, the store owner. Cheel said he does not think the drinks are marketed to underage people.

Woldeab said he hadn’t heard of Blast and he won’t try it. He said the alcohol content might be too high for some people, but it’s ultimately the consumer’s choice as to whether they want to buy the drink.

“It depends on who is consuming it,” Woldeab said. “It’s up to people if they want to buy something that’s 12 percent alcohol.”

Emily Tara contributed to this story. 

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