MillerCoors Puts New Sparks on Hold

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MillerCoors Puts New Sparks on Hold

NEW YORK – After attorneys general from 25 states sent a letter to MillerCoors urging it to abandon plans for a new version of its Sparks alcoholic energy drink, the alcohol beverage maker put on hold plans to launch the drink Oct. 1, The Associated Press reported.

Called Sparks Red, it comes from a line of canned alcoholic drinks that contain stimulants such as caffeine and taurine. Published reports stated the new version would have an 8 percent alcohol content, up from 7 and 6 percent for its other versions, according to the report.

"MillerCoors is dedicated to ensuring all of our brands are marketed responsibly to legal drinking age adults," a statement from the company said.

In other MillerCoors news, two Ohio beer distributors filed a suit in federal district court in Columbus against two-month-old MillerCoors, for canceling their partnerships with the beer maker, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The lawsuit, filed by Beverage Distributors Inc., of Cleveland, and AFP Distributors Inc., of Glouster, requests injunctions to stop MillerCoors from proceeding with plans to end shipments to the distributors as of Sept. 25, and transfer the business to other distributors, the report stated.

Recently MillerCoors canceled agreements with distributors in a number of states where laws are in allowing suppliers to void contracts when ownership changes occur. The cancellations are part of a larger strategy to consolidate distribution networks between its former parts—Miller Brewing and Molson Coors—a move that would cut costs, the newspaper reported.

The brewer signaled it would seek, where allowed, mergers between Coors and Miller distributors in the same territory. The company also has pursued tie-ups between distributors already selling both sets of products that don’t overlap geographically, according to the report.

The approach carries risk, some distributors and analysts say, because maintaining healthy relations with distributors is important to success in the U.S. beer market, where by law nearly all beer must be sold through distributors. "The timing of this somewhat messy situation is not optimal," because MillerCoors's chief rival, Anheuser-Busch Cos., "is putting up the best [sales] numbers it's put up in a long time," said Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer's Insights newsletter.

MillerCoors declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal on the Ohio suit.