Referring to sweet
, usually sparking alcoholic
drinks, alcopops were intially produced to appeal to the market
of people who didn't want to drink beers
all the time. Alcopops come usually come in bottles
between 250ml and 330ml in size and therefore, are easy to carry around a pub
(unlike pints and spirits with mixers) and quick to drink.
Hooch (made by Hooper's, Bass Brewerys) and Two Dogs (Merrydown (makers of cider)) were among the first "alcopops" to appear on the British market. Both launched in 1995, the taste of lemonade and bright colourful packaging the product was initially frowned upon for its appeal to underage drinkers; especially when a report was released which stated that when questioned (without prompting) alcoholic lemonade was the second favourite drink of 600 12-15 year olds after cola in the UK.
This lead to an industry code being introduced which prevented the use of "lemonade" and "cola" in the product names of alcoholic beverages. The Portman Group announced its new industry guidelines which:
- Banned the use of characters or imagery that would appeal to under-18s
- Banned containers with anti-social shapes and names that suggest aggression, violence, danger or sexual success.
- Required retailers to display the drinks on shelves in alcohol sections, and not mix them in chillers with soft drinks.
They said that there must be no room for confusion with soft drinks and that if words such as "lemonade" are used, it "must be made absolutely clear, directly adjacent to the brand name, that the drink is alcoholic".
In 1997 the outcry progressed further, leading to Co-op and Iceland taking all alcopops off the shelves in July and in August the pub chain J D Wetherspoon ceased to offer them in all of their outlets - mainly as a publicity stunt to gain public approval. However, a dramatic change in drinking attitudes (from beers to alcopops and spirits) in the UK and therefore, economic reasons has since seen their return to the shelves.
Even with all the uproar, Hooch was in such large demand in the summer of 1995 that bars in the UK were limited to 10 cases per order. It was leaving Two Dogs behind and spawning spinoff products by the bucketload - Mrs Puckers, Wild Brew (with its suspicious cannabis leaf like logo), Mog lemonade and Claw cola were just a few of the products launched off the back of the burgeoning new market.
Hooch branched out of bottles and into draft products in 2001, Lemon Hooch on draught was available only in Student's Unions across the country until April 2002 when a dispute with Interbrew over kegs lead to it being withdrawn from sale.
There are alcoholic milks (Brand's Super Milch), alcoholic Irn-Bru (WKD), still juice drinks (Reef and Castaway) and "traditional" alcopops available in just about every sweet flavour you can think of from lemon to cranberry.
There are drinks that keep you awake (Red Square and Red - both containing caffine and taurine) ones which claim to chill you out (Blue), ones that are designed to be drunk quickly (Reef), ones that play on childhood memories (WKD Irn-Bru), alcopops which imitate another (Smirnoff Ice has spinoffs such as VK Ice, Bacardi Breezer Lemon); Most are are vodka based exceptions include Bacardi Breezers (white rum) and Archer's Aqua (peach schnapps)
The market that Hooper's and Merrydown initially cornered in the UK has since been taken over by its spinoff products, Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezers, Reef and WKD. To date there have been over 150 alcopops launched in the UK. The alcopop market is huge and is worth over £350 million per annum in the UK alone (2000).