|Type||Malt beverage/Energy drink|
|Country of origin||USA|
|Color||FD&C Yellow No.5|
|Variants||Sparks Light, Sparks Plus, Sparks Red, Sparks Lemon Stinger, Sparks Blackberry|
|Related products||Budweiser energy drink, Red Bull, Tilt, Four, Joose|
Sparks is an alcoholic beverage that debuted in the US market in 2002. The original formulation contained caffeine, one of the first alcoholic beverages to do so. Its other original active ingredients included taurine, ginseng and guarana, common to energy drinks.
Sparks' current formulation does not contain caffeine or taurine. It is packaged in 16oz silver cans with bright orange tops, with a "+" printed near the top and a "-" printed near the bottom, intended to be reminiscent of a battery. Other varieties include a sugar-free "Sparks Light" version with a bright blue top. Higher alcohol versions, named "Sparks Plus" (black top, 7% alcohol), "Sparks Red" (red top, 8% alcohol)" and "Sparks Stinger" (yellow top, 8% alcohol) are packaged in both 16oz and 24oz cans.
Created in 2002 by San Francisco-based beverage marketing firm McKenzie River Corporation, early marketing relied on word of mouth primed by giving away large quantities of the beverage. Between 2003 and 2005, it had a 107% compound annual growth rate.
On August 14, 2006, Miller Brewing Company announced it had completed the purchase of Sparks from McKenzie River Corp. for $215 million cash. Miller had been producing Sparks prior to this purchase. It is currently producing it under the Steel Brewing Company label of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In September 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit watchdog and consumer advocacy group, sued MillerCoors, claiming that its Sparks alcoholic beverages that include caffeine are a health hazard. Three months later, at the behest of San Francisco and 13 states, distributor MillerCoors LLC announced it would remove the caffeine from its Sparks line of energy drinks, and would change its marketing campaign. "We're doing it to protect the public health of our young people and to reform business practices," said S.F. City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
- Energy: 350 Calories (1463 kilojoules)
- from carbohydrates: 188 calories (787 kJ) (54%)
- from alcohol: 161 calories (674 kJ) (46%)
- Total carbohydrates 47 g 16%
Sparks Light (per 12 oz / 355 mL) 133 Calories 3.3 grams of carbohydrates 0.0 grams of fat.
- Marikar, Sheila (July 12, 2006). "Energy Beers Boost Brewing Industry". abcnews.go.com. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Smallwood, Christine (October 2004). "Malternative Marketing: The Sparks Story". The Philadelphia Independent. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "Miller acquires Sparks, Steel Reserve brands". Business Journal of Milwaukee. July 3, 2006. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Chicago Tribune http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-0607040164jul04,1,7276493.story?coll=chi-business-hed
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- Daykin, Tom (September 9, 2008). "MillerCoors sued over Sparks: Health group says beverage shouldn't contain stimulants". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
- Kesmodel, David (December 19, 2008). "MillerCoors Will Revamp Sparks". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Ross, Andrew S. (December 19, 2008). "Sparks energy drink to drop caffeine". SFGate. Retrieved 4 June 2010.