Although not a new concept Mark Philips hopes to market the first powdered alcohol in the US by early fall. An active outdoorsman, Phillips claims he was “frustrated” by the hassle of carrying bottles of wine or liquor to enjoy after a day of biking or kayaking. So…he created Palcohol. Promoted as a convenience for people on the go, the powdered substance is mixed with water to create a cocktail. Palcohol can also be combined with cola or orange juice for a traditional mixed drink. Each package weighs about an ounce and is small enough to fit into any pocket. Currently flavors include: vodka and rum flavors and four cocktail flavors – Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita, and Lemon Drop.
The portable alcoholic drink mix received “label approval” from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on April 8, 2014, but just as Palcohol gained widespread online attention, the TTB said approval was issued in error. Philips’ company (Lipsmark) claimed there was a discrepancy on how much powder was in the packets, which lead to a mutual agreement to surrender the labels. Philips said the company plans to reformulate Palcohol and resubmit the product for approval.
Beverage law website operator Robert Lehrman questions oversight of this nature. Lehrman told USA Today that because products are extensively reviewed before labels are approved, he suspects that pressure from concerned lawmakers might have put the brakes on the drink mix.
Until the media frenzy, the Palcohol website featured edgy (and legally questionable) suggestions for using the packets such as dodging expensive prices at sporting events and concerts and sprinkling it on food for an “extra kick.” Although the website has been scrubbed, here are a few of its original statements.
- “What’s worse than going to a concert, sporting event, etc. and having to pay $10, $15, $20 for a mixed drink with tax and tip? Are you kidding me?! Take Palcohol into the venue and enjoy a mixed drink for a fraction of the cost.” The website also suggested putting the little pouch in your pocket when attending a college football game or going to the movies – venues that may not sell alcohol.
- “Palcohol also makes for an easy way to get hammered over breakfast without anyone noticing: just sprinkle it right onto your pancakes, and voilà. Some of our favorites are the Kamikaze in guacamole, Rum on a BBQ sandwich, Cosmo on a salad and Vodka on eggs in the morning to start your day off right.”
- “Those who’d rather mainline booze directly into their bloodstream are also in luck. Palcohol can be snorted! And you’ll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose.”
The company claims it was experimenting with some humorous and edgy marketing that was in no way intended to go public. Although the site has since been updated to suggest more responsible (and legal) habits, it is still easy to see how something like powdered alcohol could be misused or abused, with potentially dangerous consequences. The convenience of the packets could encourage over-consumption of alcohol, as well as accidents caused by drunk driving.
For example, what would stop a restaurant patron from ordering a glass of water and pouring in a packet of Palcohol instead of their usual mixed drink? What happens if the same patron makes more than one Palcohol drink or adds multiple packets to one glass of water then gets behind the wheel and causes a serious or fatal accident? Who is held responsible – the driver, restaurant, Palcohol, Mark Philips?
Another concern is the appeal to the younger crowd and college students given the variety of flavors. Given the small packet size, it would be easier for underage drinkers to hide the product. Although Lipsmark noted that “volume” has been added to the powder to make snorting it more trouble than it’s worth, do they really think that will prevent someone from giving it a try? Snorting alcohol has a much larger potential for abuse and can cause serious damage to the brain and potentially death.
The future of Palcohol will surely be an interesting story to follow. It is questionable whether Palcohol will receive state approvals; if it does the updated website will most likely not detour young drinkers. The company would still face legal risks as well. No matter how much Lipsmark sanitizes its website, warning labels are not enough. Four Loko, the alcoholic energy drink, is still the subject of multiple lawsuits, years after their products were pulled from shelves.
Does Palcohol pose a danger to our youth or is this media frenzy just fear and overreaction? What do you think? Mr. Philips: We will be watching.
Mark Bello has thirty-seven years experience as a trial lawyer and fifteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.