The cocktail mixers were launched under their new brand “Neon Zebra”. Packed in colorful, attractive packaging the mixers come in four flavors: margarita, strawberry daiquiri, mojito and whiskey sour. If the packaging was not a giveaway of who the target for the product is, Pepsi themselves confirm that the product targets 21 to 34 year olds – young people with peers likely also below the legal age limit for alcohol use.
It seems Pepsi has planned and lined up this effort to push alcohol on young people for a long time. They have been tracking the at-home alcohol use trend and developing the product for two years.
The products and practices of the alcohol industry were already a problem for American society before the pandemic. But Big Alcohol’s perverse strategies to increase sales during the ongoing public health crisis have further worsened the situation.
- A study published in JAMA Network found that alcohol sales rose by 14% in spring 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019.
- Another study from researchers at the RAND corporation found that alcohol consumption rose almost 30% during the pandemic, compared to a few months before.
- The effects of this increase in consumption is evident from the rise in alcohol-related liver disease in the U.S. More and more younger people and women – two specific target groups of the alcohol industry – are presenting with this disease to hospitals.
Profit over people
This all matters nothing to Pepsi Co because the statistics say there is big money to be made. In the 52 weeks that ended on February 13, Americans have spent $304.6 million on cocktail mixers, up 36% from a year ago, according to Nielsen retail data. Pepsi is planning on grabbing some of these profits for themselves, even if it means fueling heavy alcohol use and further aggrevating existing alcohol problems in the country.
Pepsi is not the only sugar-sweetened beverages giant pushing alcohol perversely exploiting the pandemic for profit maximization:
- Coca-Cola had already joined Big Alcohol, launching various products targeting young people and women in Japan and the United Kingdom (UK). Coca Cola is set to launch an alcopop in the U.S. in 2021.
- Drinkworks, a joint venture between AB InBev and Keurig Dr Pepper, has created a home bar appliance that makes cocktails using pods.
Not stopping with the cocktail mixers, Pepsi is also looking into delivery partnerships for Neon Zebra. Alcohol delivery grew in the U.S. during the pandemic and is still largely unregulated. Early on in the pandemic Big Alcohol exploited the crisis to deregulate alcohol policies, specifically regarding delivery.
According to a Movendi International analysis, numerous states have weakened alcohol delivery and alcohol take away rules and instituted other measures that undermine alcohol laws. Among these states are Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.
An investigation by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) department of the state of California found that on-demand alcohol delivery apps harm youth by delivering alcohol to minors.