Soft Drink for Kids Looks Like Beer, Worries Watchdogs

September 2005 – Kidsbeer, a Japanese soft drink bottled and formulated to look like beer, may soon be available throughout Europe, but watchdogs of underage drinking say they will fight any effort to ship it to the United States.

The drink, which comes in a brown bottle and is advertised with the slogan “Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink,” is lager-colored and foams like beer, but tastes like cola.

Introduced two years ago, it is sold by more than 150 restaurants and supermarkets in Japan, according to Tomomasu, the small bottler that makes it. Beer is widely available in vending machines in Japan, where the legal drinking age is 20.

An article in August in The Sunday Telegraph in London about plans to introduce Kidsbeer, first to Britain, then to the rest of Europe, caused a fuss among alcohol industry critics and government officials.

Tim Loughton, a member of Parliament, told The Telegraph that the drink’s expected arrival was “an alarming development.” Neither a British soft drink association nor an alcohol watchdog group could confirm that Kidsbeer was in Britain.

Amon Rappaport, a spokesman for the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog based in California, said Kidsbeer would “unwittingly play into the alcohol industry’s efforts to glamorize drinking and introduce kids to beer.” The group criticizes beer product placement in youth-oriented PG-13 movies like “Dodgeball” and “Hellboy.”

“The last thing we need is another product that introduces kids to drinking when the alcohol industry already spends billions doing that,” Rappaport said.