Ridiculous Products: Four Loko

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Four Loko Cans

Four Loko is an alcoholic energy drink, so we’re already off to a great start right there, because why wouldn’t you want to mix a downer like alcohol with an upper like caffeine? Simple math says that the two will cancel out and keep you at a safe median. Loko comes in “delicious” “flavors” like Blue Raspberry and Cranberry Lemonade, and a 23.5-ounce can will set you back less than $3. For your money, you’ll get both six servings of alcohol and the caffeine of five cups of coffee, all in something you can probably consume in under 10 minutes. [See the update at the bottom of the page for more details. -Ed.]

That doesn’t even sound like it should be legal, but for now, it is. At that price, anyone can get drunk off his ass, while maintaining the energy to stay up all night getting even drunker off his ass. Loko isn’t just for the bum who needs to get stuff done though. It’s also a big hit at college campuses, where cheap students are purchasing it with the change they find under their couch cushions.

Of course, the concoction is less popular with college administrators. Schools such as BU and Northeastern have issued warnings about it to their student bodies. Other colleges, including Central Washington University, Ramapo College, and the University of Rhode Island, have banned it outright. Judging by the empty shelves around here, however, these actions have only served to increase demand.

Phusion Projects, the company who makes Four Loko, is working to counteract this recent negative publicity. This excerpt from their “Four Facts” page, providing information about their cans, is quite revealing:

  • Our cans feature seven different warnings about the alcohol content and the need for an ID for purchase.

  • Our ABV warnings are in a font as large as the federal government will allow.

  • We were the first caffeinated alcoholic beverage company to ad “WE ID” tags to our cans.

  • Four Loko’s can colors are no brighter or more appealing than the blue, red, and green labels of established beer brands like Budweiser and Heineken.

That is some defensive writing, and only serves to make them look bad. For instance, the fact that the government limits how large you can make your ABV (Alcohol By Volume) “warnings” makes it clear that this text is actually boasting of a feature, not warning of a problem.

That said, I’m not sure how you defend a candy-flavored drink with a ridiculously high alcohol concentration which also contains caffeine that will mask the effects of alcohol consumption. There really is no safe way to drink anything but a small quantity of this stuff. Hopefully the founders are smart enough boozenessmen to save their profits now, because they’ll need them once the first lawsuits roll in.

Judging by this gem from their FAQ page, however, I have my doubts:

Are people drinking Four because of its high alcohol content?

It’s really a matter of consumer choice. Our products are just a fraction of a wide array of beverage options. In fact, stores that sell our products also offer dozens of other beverage choices – from beer to wine to spirits. Consumption of Four products accounts for less than approximately 1% of total beer consumption nationwide.

Who dodges a question on their own Frequently Asked Questions page?

Update (November 17th, 2010): I checked the math on the statement from the first paragraph, which came from this post. At 12% alcohol and 23.5 fluid ounces, Four Loko has about 2.82 fluid ounces of alcohol, which seems to be closer to four or five “standard” drinks. The caffeine content is 260 mg, which appears to be closer to around 3 cups of coffee.

Also, as evidenced by this follow-up post, that ten-minute consumption estimate was overly optimistic.


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