Background: Concern has been expressed regarding the influence of the newer premixed alcohols, known as ready-to-drinks (RTDs), on adolescent alcohol use as a result of their sweet and milky flavours. Use of these flavours may reduce the natural barrier of the often strong and unpleasant flavour of alcohol to early experimentation and regular and heavy use.
Aim: To determine the acceptability and alcohol detectability of a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to young adolescents and young adults.
Design: A convenience sample of 350 participants was recruited, 70 in each of five age groups. Participants were grouped according to age into 12-13 years, 14-15 years, 16-17 years, younger adults of 18-23 years and older adults of 24-30 years, with even gender distribution in an experimental design comparing blind and labelled acceptability testing of a range of RTDs and their alcohol and soft drink components, beer, wine and a novel beverage.
Findings: The acceptability of alcohol increased with age; however, chocolate 'Mudshake', and to a lesser extent watermelon 'Breezer', had acceptability scores more like their soft drink base than their alcohol component. There were no significant differences in the ability to detect the presence of alcohol in the RTDs across age or beverage types.
Conclusion: Public policy makers and others concerned with preventing early initiation to alcohol use and binge drinking among adolescents should be aware that when using milk as a base for an RTD, particularly with an alcoholic base such as vodka, the drink may have high acceptance with young adolescents and equal palatability to milk, even though the presence of alcohol is not completely masked. Further research with a wider range of RTDs is required.