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Alcopops Q & A

What are alcopops?
Prevention advocates use the term “alcopops” for sweetened alcoholic beverages that are usually sold in single serving bottles or cans. They are often bubbly and/or fruit-flavored, and resemble soda or other soft drinks. Alcopops contain about the same amount of alcohol as beer (roughly 5%, sometimes higher). However, up to half the alcohol in alcopops is derived from distilled spirits. Alcopops are also known in the industry as "flavored malt beverages,(FMBs)" “malternatives,” and “flavored alcoholic beverages.”

How are alcopops made? While industry keeps most manufacturing information secret, from what little we do know, alcopops apparently start out as beer. Then manufacturers remove the color, taste, and much of the alcohol from the beer, leaving mostly water. They then add flavorings, sweeteners, and distilled alcohol for the finished product.

When did alcopops first come on the scene? Alcopops have been around since the mid-1990s. Zima, introduced by Coors in 1994, was one of the first products. Even then, popular culture references made fun of Zima’s appeal among young girls. Skits on Saturday Night Live featured a married man attempting to seduce a babysitter with Zima, and a teenage girl hosting a party and offering Zima to her friends. Wine-based coolers, like Gallo’s Bartles & Jaymes, switched to a beer base in the 1990’s and are now know as "flavored malt coolers."

What companies make alcopops? Manufacturers include Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewer, and Diageo, the largest multinational beer, wine, and spirits company in the world. The top selling alcopops brands include Mike’s Hard Lemonade (Mark Anthony Group), Smirnoff Ice (Diageo), Skyy Blue (Skyy Vodka and SAB Miller), Bacardi Silver and Bacardi Breezer (both Anheuser-Busch).

Who is drinking alcopops? Underage girls drink alcopops more than any other type of alcoholic beverage. While industry says the drinks are intended for adults, women 21 and older rank alcopops as their least consumed alcoholic beverage. About one-third of teenage girls ages 12 to 18 and one-fifth of teenage boys have tried alcopops. Young people call alcopops "cheerleader beer," and "chick beer."