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Stores see spike in Four Loko sales

Cody Cousino / Lantern photographer

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Four Loko is flying off store shelves almost as fast as the vendors can put it there, according to store managers at some campus-area stores.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that Four Loko and other alcoholic energy drinks are unsafe, and Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko, said the company would remove the stimulants caffeine, taurine and guarana from their product. Since then, students have been rushing to get their hands on what’s left of the caffeinated product created by three Ohio State alumni.

“We’re seeing a spike in sales,” said Daniel Leppla, the manager of United Dairy Farmers at High Street and Frambes Avenue.

Renzo Ganvini, the store manager at Campus Corner, located at East 16th Avenue and High Street, said his store has seen a surge in sales but doesn’t think the store will sell out any time soon.

“We have a big long row of Four Loko, actually,” Ganvini said, “over 200 cases left.”

Each case of Four Loko contains 12 cans.

Ganvini said that, before the FDA announcement, students typically came bought one or two cans at a time, but now they are buying them by the case.

One student at Campus Corner bought 16 cases — two cases each of the eight flavors — Ganvini said.

Though some campus liquor stores, including Tobacco International on East 13th Avenue, have raised the prices on Four Loko, Ganvini said his store is still selling the product for $2.49 per can.

Brett Aukerman, the assistant manager of PJ’s Grill on East Frambes Avenue, said people have been buying the drinks by the case at his store as well. He said confusion about the announcement has people scrambling.

“It’s been a huge increase in sales actually,” Aukerman said. “Everyone thinks they’re being banned completely.”

Aukerman said he thinks many students are under the impression that Four Loko is being banned outright by the FDA. However, the FDA is calling for a safer version of the product.

“FDA is aware that on (Tuesday), Phusion Projects, LLC, the maker of Four Loko, announced its intention to remove caffeine and other stimulants from its drink,” according to a statement from the FDA released Wednesday. “FDA intends to work with Phusion Projects, LLC, and other manufacturers to assure their products will meet safety standards.”

Aukerman said PJ’s just ordered 500 more cases of the caffeinated version from Phusion Projects, LLC’s warehouse because of the increased sales.

He said the store has enough of the product in stock to make it through the Michigan game, when sales are traditionally higher, he said.

Once the reformulated version of the product is released, Leppla said he expects to see the sales return to their usual levels.

Leppla said when Sparks, a former alcoholic energy drink, removed the caffeine from its product about a year ago, sales dipped slightly. He expects similar results with Four Loko.

But Aukerman, who has sold as many as five cases, or $170-worth of Four Loko at one time, said he thinks the stimulant-free version of the product will continue to sell once the caffeinated version is gone.

“Students are definitely going to want to try it,” Aukerman said. “We’ll probably get a rush on them in the beginning.”

After speaking with a Four Loko representative who said the new formula tasted better, Aukerman said that although it is a matter of personal preference, he wouldn’t be surprised if students like the new version more.

He did say, however, that even if the students like the new version, many of the students stocking up now have told him they plan to sell the original version of Four Loko for a higher price.

“There will probably be a little Four Loko black market going on for awhile,” Aukerman said.

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