Decaffeinated version of Four Loko returns to Ann Arbor store shelves

Danielle Toll/Daily
The new version of Four Loko sold at 7-Eleven on South State Street on Monday, March 28. Buy this photo

By Brienne Prusak, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 26, 2011

A non-caffeinated version of Four Loko has legally found its way back onto convenience store shelves after being banned in Michigan last November.

The old version of the drink — sometimes referred to as “blackout in a can” — was banned by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission because its mix of alcohol and caffeine was deemed dangerous to consumers. The beverage contained about as much alcohol as four beers and the same amount of caffeine as three to four cups of coffee.

A press release issued in November by Phusion Projects — the company that makes Four Loko — stated that the original Four Loko product was safe since drinks like rum and cola have been around for years without contention. The company also stressed that it clearly prints the alcohol content and warnings on every item it sells and that it isn’t in the business of selling dangerous products.

According to the Phusion Projects website, the company decided to remove caffeine, guarana and taurine from its products nationwide, leading to a non-caffeinated version of the drink that was legally allowed to be sold.

Gary Breher, manager of Main Street Party Store on North Main Street, said he was surprised to discover that the new Four Loko is quite popular.

“I’m stunned at how well it’s selling,” Breher said.

Breher said the old version of Four Loko had great sales in his store, especially right before the ban took effect.

“The old Four Loko used to fly off the shelves,” he said.

Jerome Kamano, manager of the Diag Party Shoppe on North State Street, agreed that the old version of Four Loko sold very well — especially after the ban was announced in November.

Kamano also said his store “couldn’t keep it on the shelves” at the time.

The new version of Four Loko — which Diag Party Shoppe began selling about two weeks ago — is also selling well, Kamano said.

Kamano added that customers have expressed excitement about seeing it back on shelves and are curious if the product still contains caffeine.

Maher Jaboro, co-owner of A & L Wine Castle on West Stadium Boulevard, said that his store has not begun selling the new version yet.

“We’re planning to sell (it), we just haven’t gotten around to it yet,” he said.

LSA freshman Bryna Barron said she thinks people will still want Four Loko despite the absence of caffeine.

“It won’t be the same without the caffeine,” Barron said, “I think people will still buy it, but because it’s not the same, it won’t have as much hype.”

While the new version of Four Loko is readily available around campus, several University students stocked up on the old version before it became illegal to sell.

A University student — who requested anonymity — said he’s one of many students who purchased large amounts of the old version as soon as he heard it was being removed from stores. He said that since the ban, he has sold the old version underground, and that his sales have taken off.

“When the supply goes down, the demand goes up,” he said.