"Functional" booze is an oxymoron
If the latest class-action cases are any indication, it's a legal liability, too
Your fearless Fingers editor gave up studying for the LSATs after like three days a dozen years ago, and remains, at present, not a lawyer. That said, I literally cannot believe how many booze brands, particularly in the hard seltzer category, flirt with American alcohol regulations by promoting products’ vitamin/electrolyte/nutrient content. It’s a thing! Big brands and small brands! Molson Coors just lost a motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit that it’s facing for marketing Vizzy with Vitamin C claims! Colorado’s Upslope Brewing just got hit with a class-action of its own for allegedly misleading customers that its calcium- and potassium-fortified Spiked Snowmelt seltzer are healthy! My dogs, what are you doing?!
Of course, what they’re doing is trying to find ways to differentiate their beverage-alcohol products from everybody else’s. Can you blame them? In virtually every consumer packaged good category, dating back to time immemorial or at least, like, the Fifties, messaging a product’s health benefits—real or perceived, it barely matters—has been a surefire way to convince the American consumer to buy it. It’s basic marketing, and oh my god, does it work these days: Food Navigator reported earlier this year on data from market-research firm SPINS that shows wellness and “better-for-you” segments accounted for 25% of dollar volume and 63% of dollar growth of the entire CPG industry in 2021. So-called “functional” beverages—soft drinks infused with adaptogens, CBD, and the like—already comprise a multi-billion-dollar category no matter how you slice it. As consumers sour on traditional soda, that runway will only gets longer.
But! But! Though they would very much like to be, booze brands are not like the rest of the CPG market here in the United States. Herein lies a problem: one of the most reliable ways to convince American consumers to buy your shit is mostly off-limits to American producers with a lot of shit to sell—and tons of competitors whose shit is basically indiscernible from their own. Shit!