Are These New Whiskey Pods Fueling Teen Alcohol Abuse?

whiskey pods

Anyone remember the Tide Pod Challenge? Or, perhaps more prominently, the amount of effort put into stopping people from eating Tide Pods? The innocuous-laundry-detergent-packets-turned-dangerous-poisoning-agents started trending once more on social media recently as Glenlivet distillery launched their Capsule Collection whiskey pods. Twitter quickly lifted the capsules up to its trending page as “alcoholic Tide Pods.”

Many simply enjoyed a good laugh at the ironic resemblance between the whiskey pods and Tide Pods. Others are worried that the resemblance could add fuel to an already pressing issue: teen substance abuse.

Alcoholic Tide Pods

The Tide Pods Challenge was a social media trend in late 2017 and 2018. People would film themselves putting Tide Pods laundry detergent packets into their mouths and post the videos to social media. The trend started out as a farcical joke but quickly progressed to a massive safety concern when undaunted teens and impressionable children started following suit.

After much warning from health care professionals and damage control from Tide, the trend fell off — until Glenlivet’s alcoholic Tide Pods debuted.

Glenlivet, of course, did not call their new product “alcoholic Tide Pods.” Social media was quick to dub the nickname, however, due to the seemingly obvious resemblance. But is the resemblance purposeful? If so, it’s dangerous territory to market so closely to what was a teenage viral phenomenon.

No Glass, No Stirrer, No Problem? Not Quite.

From The Glenlivet Capsule Collection video advertisement:

“The Glenlivet Capsule Collection sets new standards on how whiskey can be enjoyed.”

whiskey podsThe message portrayed in Glenlivet’s marketing materials for the whiskey pods launch is one of elegance and convenience. One can simply pop the whiskey pods into their mouth and enjoy — no glass or stirrer required.

The whiskey cocktails are encapsulated by an edible, biodegradable seaweed coating, appealing to the sustainability efforts at the forefront of recent consumerism.

The convenient, unique, and sustainable features of The Glenlivet Capsule Collection could all immediately be read as positive. However, those positives aren’t exclusive to adult consumers, which poses a potentially large risk when the product is intended to be adult-only.

11% of alcohol in the U.S. is consumed by people age 12-20, according to the CDC.

Teen substance abuse is already a demanding problem in the United States. The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students within a span of 30 days:

  • 30% drank alcohol
  • 14% binge drank
  • 6% drove after drinking alcohol
  • 17% rode with a driver who drank alcohol

The convenience of these whiskey pods makes it easier for teens to consume alcohol. Like the adults the pods are intended for, teens also don’t need a glass, ice, or stirrer. They, too, can easily and discreetly carry, transport, consume, and share the small whiskey pods.

Matching Stealth with Speed

It pretty much goes without saying that if the alcohol doesn’t require a glass and can easily fit in your purse, pocket, or the palm of your hand, stealth consumption for a shockingly high number of teen drinkers is made much, much easier. Stealth is but one feature to spark the attention of young drinkers.

Each whiskey capsule contains about 25 milliliters of alcohol. Because of their small size, these whiskey pods can be consumed much more quickly than your average cocktail. Glenlivet’s marketing tactics show a much more elegant way of enjoying the capsules, but let’s be honest: they’re pretty much shots. While adult whiskey drinkers might have acquired the sophistication to sip on a seaweed-bound mini cocktail, we can assume that teens would naturally subscribe to the binge drinking experience. There are a variety of reasons to call upon, but let’s just throw the legality (or lack thereof) of teen alcohol consumption to the forefront. It’s illegal for teens to buy, sip, and enjoy a cocktail. So, they’re much more likely to grab what they can and consume quickly. These whiskey pods make that task easier.

Whiskey Pods: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, no distillery would target teenagers as their main audience. Younger (legal) drinkers likely were the target — clued by those fun and unique features. But teens, however, cannot legally purchase alcohol. These whiskey pods were not made for them.

That doesn’t change the fact that they do have a sizable potential to make stealth consumption easier for teenagers. And before we write that claim off as reaching, virtually no one would have expected children and young adults to create a challenge out of eating laundry detergent. Can we expect differently of “alcoholic Tide Pods?”