‘BuzzBallz’ Sending Conflicting Messages To Consumers


UPDATED: Tuesday February 26, 2013 6:59 AM

They’re one of the newest things out on grocery store shelves.
 
BuzzBallz pack a punch – each one containing 20 percent alcohol.
 
The brightly colored, round plastic bottles with flavors like Stiff Lemonade, Cran Blaster, Strawberry Rum Job and Lotta Colada were created to be fun and safe around the pool or a beach.
 
But one local substance abuse prevention group said the product sends the wrong message – especially to children.
 
“I’ve never tried them, but they look good,” said Ohio State University junior Kelley Burch.
 
The mixed drinks have gotten mixed reviews from consumers.
 
“I think it’s hell in a bottle, and not good to be around a college campus,” said student Casey Plachak.
 
“I suppose I’d give it a shot – no pun intended,” student Andrew Bratton said.
 
BuzzBallz President Merrilee Kick, a former high school teacher, said she came up with the concept for the drinks while sitting by a pool grading papers.
 
“They’re colorful, because it’s a unique brand, it’s a unique packaging idea,” Kick said. “It’s never been done before.”
 
Kick said she wanted to create a ready-to-go cocktail in a container that was non-breakable and safe.
 
“I came up with that name, and it kind of stuck - it fit in the market,” Kick said. “It’s just all meant to be fun. It’s not meant to be a harmful beverage.”
 
Some think otherwise, though.
 
“Twenty percent alcohol is 40 proof,” said Marcie Seidel, the executive director of Drug Free Action Alliance. “This is really scary.”
 
Seidel heads the organization, which is a non-profit group whose mission is to prevent substance abuse.
 
“It does concern us – just look at the packaging of it,” Seidel said. “The fact is they’re promoting this for around the pool, and in water activities, camping and all those activities where alcohol should not be.”
 
Seidel said her biggest concern is what she calls the confusing message the product sends.
 
“It’s really focused and captures the attention of young people,” Seidel said.
 
Many college students said they agree.
 
“I think it could send the wrong message, just because little kids might want to pick it up and drink it. They don’t know what’s in it,” student Kayla Zamary said.
 
Fellow student Aaron Deutsch said that he thinks the product looks like a toy.
 
“Definitely the wrong message for kids,” Deutsch said.
 
According to the company founder, the product also is attractive to adults.
 
“As far as it being colorful and being attractive for kids, that’s a human nature thing, I guess, but that’s not something I can control,” Kick said. “It’s also attractive to adults, because it looks like fun. It looks like a party.”
 
BuzzBallz are available at dozens of stores around central Ohio. They can be found in the liquor sections at major grocers and in smaller carryouts.
 
In at least one case, BuzzBallz were found at the cash register.
 
The makers of BuzzBallz said that to prevent deliberate or accidental underage drinking, the community needs to step up.
 
“So, there needs to be some personal responsibility in that,” Kick said. “Some parent responsibility, and there needs to be responsibility on the part of the retailer to make sure they check those IDs and spot fake IDs and tell kids, ‘No.’”
 
Seidel said that parents need to be especially vigilant and diligent and always talk to their children.
 
“What I think is the key here is called ‘buyer beware,’” Seidel said. “Parents need to know that this product is available, and it very easily can fall into the hands of their children.  If they don’t know about it, there’s a good chance their children know about it and are finding ways to get their hands on it.”
 
The makers of BuzzBallz said Ohio is one of its strongest selling states.
 
The company has plans to add new flavors to the brand and hopes to double sales in the next year.

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