Taking shots at ShotPaks
The pocket-size alcoholic pouches appeal to teens, some worry. The makers say they're filling a niche.
ShotPak alcohol pouches are marketed “for a social setting” such
as tailgate parties at sporting events, beaches or while boating
—situations where people don’t want to cart glass around.
By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 12, 2008
The makers call it a "party in a pouch."
Critics say it's more like an alcoholic candy bar.
ShotPak is a line of alcoholic beverages that come in shot-sized, laminated-foil plastic pouches that are reminiscent of the drinks children pack in school lunches.
Purple Hooter is one of the drinks, which sell for 99 cents to $1.50 in liquor stores and for more in some nightclubs. There are also a Kamikaze, Lemon Drop, Sour Apple and a higher alcohol line of pocket-sized drinks called STR8UP of vodka, whiskey, tequila and rum -- all ironically made at a distillery in Temperance, Mich., and sold throughout Southern California. The company is legally headquartered in Irvine but is run mostly from Sarasota, Fla., where its parent company is located.
ShotPak refers to its drink as "the shot . . . without the glass!" The company's critics call it a blatant play to entice underage drinkers and to get alcohol into schools and other public venues where it wouldn't ordinarily be drunk.
"Images of these packs stuffed in jeans pockets can give kids the wrong idea. It turns this into an alcoholic candy bar," said George Hacker, a policy advocate with the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.
Until recently, the company's home page on the Internet showed a photo of just the middle of an attractive young woman. There was no head and not much of her legs. But there was a tight, bare belly clad in low slung bluejeans with a Purple Hooter pouch wedged into her front pocket.
In April, the company's main website was found in violation of advertising standards for alcoholic beverages set by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a self-regulating industry trade group.
ShotPak also had a MySpace page that talked about how "these shots are perfect to take with you tailgating, at concerts, to sporting events, on vacations, on a plane or on your next camping or boat trip."
Its list of MySpace friends include celebutante Kim Kardashian and a nearly naked woman who calls herself Jessica Rabbit. The page also contained other sexually suggestive imagery.
ShotPak made changes on both websites to comply with the standards set by the industry trade group after The Times called the Distilled Spirits Council asking about the images. "We are tidying up what might be considered controversial. We are trying to turn this into a positive product," said R. Charles Murray, chief executive of Beverage Pouch Group, which owns the ShotPak brand.
Still, some experts said they believed the convenient format of the ShotPak could encourage abuse.
"Combining vodka with raspberry drinks . . . and calling it a party in a pouch. Who are they appealing to? This isn't the kind of thing adults drink," said Dr. Michael Brody of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Adults of 25 to 40 years old are the prime targets, Murray said.
Murray said the company would sell about $500,000 of the drinks this year and was marketing a convenient drink "for a social setting" such as tailgate parties at sporting events, beaches or while boating -- situations where people don't want to cart glass around.
"We think a cocktail in a pocket fulfills a real niche out there," Murray said. At 17% alcohol, "you can have four of the cocktails, for example, and not be in trouble."
Murray bought the company from founder Ignus Hattingh in January and moved it from Irvine to Florida.
Murray said that he didn't believe the imagery ShotPak previously used, or its current Web pages, made it a bigger target of underage drinking and that underage and barely legal drinkers were unlikely to use ShotPaks.
"If they drink, these people are geared to beer," because it is affordable, Murray said.
That's not always the case. At a recent Los Angeles Dodgers game, several young adult fans were purchasing cokes, pulling out STR8UP rum pouches and mixing drinks in the stands, in violation of stadium policies.