Coca-Cola is the iconic American beverage – it’s sold in fast-food restaurants, featured in films and is a staple in many American households. While the drink is not exactly healthy, as it contains caffeine and a significant amount of sugar, it’s generally associated as a family-friendly beverage.
That popular image of Coca-Cola could be changing. The soda giant announced in May of 2018 that it would be releasing a new, alcoholic soft drink: Lemon-do.
Lemon-do debuted in Japan and has seen some popularity there. It’s unknown when exactly the drink will make its way to the United States, but it’s speculated that it could arrive in 2020.
What will it mean for Coca-Cola to be associated with alcohol? This will be a tricky question for the company as they assess what it could do to their brand. Other ventures like the 2006 Coca-Cola Blak was a flop, but perhaps moving into the growing alcoholic seltzer market could be promising.
If Coca-Cola does decide to include both caffeinated and alcoholic beverages in their sales, they could face some backlash from consumers and groups that are aware of the dangers of mixing alcohol with caffeine.
Alcohol and Caffeine Use in The United States
It’s common to mix caffeine and alcohol together — you might have a soda after dinner after having a beer or you might drink some caffeine before going out and having a few drinks. In very small, moderate amounts, caffeine and alcohol do not necessarily lead to negative consequences, but they can.
Caffeine can limit the depressive effects of alcohol, making people feel less drunk than they are and leading to a greater likelihood of binge drinking. This combination can result in “a perfect storm” in which people lose control of their drinking and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like drunk driving, violence and drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning.
Caffeinated alcoholic drinks or alcoholic energy drinks saw a rise in popularity in the early 2000s at the same time that energy drinks hit the U.S. market. After high school and college students were hospitalized as a result of drinking alcoholic coffee drinks or alcoholic energy drinks, like Four Loko, the FDA banned the sale of caffeinated alcoholic drinks in 2010.
Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Caffeine
What does all of this mean for Coca-Cola’s new product? At this time, it isn’t necessarily relevant since Lemon-do is just alcohol mixed with a soft drink — seltzer water. Where it can become problematic is when people mix caffeine and alcohol.
Because the negative effects of combining caffeine and alcohol are well-established at this point, it’s unlikely that Coca-Cola will manufacture a caffeinated alcoholic beverage even in markets that do not have bans, like the United States.
With the ban against pre-mixed caffeinated alcoholic beverages in place, it’s up to consumers to understand the risks of mixing caffeine and alcohol and to exercise responsible drinking habits.
Koh, Lydia. “Coca-Cola to release new alcoholic soft drink.” July 27, 2019. Accessed September 19, 2019.
Ferré, S.; O’Brien, M. C. “Alcohol and Caffeine: The Perfect Storm”. Journal of Caffeine Research. September 2011. Accessed September 19, 2019.
Nordrum, Amy. “The Caffeine-Alcohol Effect.” November 7, 2014. Accessed September 19, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol and Caffeine.” Accessed September 20, 2019.