Anti energy drinks hit Houston market

Houston Chronicle:

First came Red Bull and Monster Energy, giving a high-octane boost to late-night parties and study sessions.

Now the anti-energy drinks have arrived, carbonated beverages that promise to help you "slow your roll" or "lean with it."

But with their hip-hop-inspired advertising campaigns, Drank and Purple Stuff are generating a buzz that is anything but chill.

"I am very concerned about the marketing," said Ronald Peters, a University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health professor. Peters has researched the phenomenon of mixing codeine syrup with soft drinks or alcohol, a concoction that is believed to have factored in the deaths of three local rap stars.

"Sippin' syrup" is believed to have originated in Houston and it remains a common topic for Southern rappers. "Drank," "purple stuff" and "lean" are street terms for the illicit mixture.

Peters said he worries the new canned beverages could be a gateway for youth who want to experience the slowed-down effect of cough-syrup abuse. He called the products a step in the wrong direction and criticized them as "one of the most asinine things I have ever seen."

The Rev. Michael P. Williams, pastor of Joy Baptist Tabernacle Church in the Third Ward, said the Drank and Purple Stuff ad campaigns recall a troubling history of marketing such products as cigarettes and malt liquor in African-American communities. He said the companies that promote products like this shun "moral responsibility" and perpetuate harmful caricatures.

"These products are deliberately marketed in inner-city communities, where there is already some form of pathology that exists to begin with," Williams said. "Crime, poverty ... these things are exacerbated by these kind of investments."

Drank's creator, Peter Bianchi of Houston, defended his product and denied targeting consumers in specific neighborhoods.

"We have been doing well in white, middle-class neighborhoods, too," Bianchi said, citing strong sales in suburban Friendswood. He said Drank, which launched in Houston and was made available online in October, is now sold in Austin and Dallas, as well as communities in Missouri, New York and Connecticut.

Drank's Web site says those using the product include rappers, professionals, students and insomniacs. A MySpace page dedicated to the beverage shows smiling black youth brandishing the bottle and plays a tune by rapper Lil Wayne: Me and My Drank (which refers to the real thing).

Several calls to the company that makes Purple Stuff were not returned.

At three gasoline stations in mostly black or Hispanic neighborhoods — in Missouri City, Galena Park and Third Ward — clerks reported the drinks were popular among youth coming from clubs on the weekends. At the Spec's in downtown Houston, a representative said the drink has been "selling well."

But at two stations in predominantly Anglo neighborhoods — one in far west Houston and the other in Katy's Cinco Ranch — clerks had not heard of Drank or Purple Stuff.

...

I did not realize this target market needed to be more laid back.

Since I have never tried the energy drinks listed, it is a pretty safe bet I will not try the anti energy drinks.

I am also not ready for the Boost which is marketed to the older generation. Before my Mom went into the nursing home she would drink a mixture of Boost and Dr. Pepper in the mornings to get her moving. It seemed to work. She was monitored by in home nurses and she showed no ill effects.

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