Palcohol didn't get off to a great start. After the company's powdered alcohol had its label accidentally approved by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, people caught wind of the new substance and its surprisingly candid website, which at the time suggested sneaking it into movie theaters and sprinkling it on food. Palcohol is now in the process of having its label instated properly, but it's facing a far steeper uphill battle this time, fighting against big names like New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who called for a close examination of the product by the Food and Drug Administration.
"When I hike, kayak, backpack … I like to have a drink when I reach my destination."Palcohol has since revamped its website with a more responsible version, and its CEO, Mark Phillips, has now taken to YouTube to better explain his product and attempt to correct what he believes are inaccuracies. But first, he opens with a basic overview of the product: powdered alcohol in a bag. You're meant to pour about five ounces of water into the bag, shake it, and then drink it out of the bag. Palcohol will come in multiple flavors, so buyers could be shaking their way to their favorite cocktail.
Phillips explains that Palcohol wasn't created for the purpose of sneaking alcohol around, but rather for convenient transportation of it. "When I hike, kayak, backpack, whatever," he says, "I like to have a drink when I reach my destination. Carrying liquid alcohol and mixtures and bottles to make a margarita, for instance, is totally impractical. So I created Palcohol."
The video also addresses what Phillips sees as the four key criticisms levied against Palcohol over the past few weeks: that it can be snorted, that it can be used to spike drinks, that it can be easily concealed, and that it'll be easy for children to get to. As for snorting, Phillips notes that it can be done, but that it's a fairly bad idea. "Snorting it is very painful," he says. "It burns. A lot. It hurts." Phillips says it would take an hour to snort one package of Palcohol, which only contains about as much alcohol as one shot of vodka.
"Why would anyone want to … take away our rights to enjoy this wonderful product?"
Though Phillips poses that portability is one of the selling points of Palcohol, he also argues that it's less concealable than miniature (airline-sized) alcohol bottles, which he says would be easier to sneak around or to use for adding alcohol to someone's drink, as opposed to the about one ounce of powder in a Palcohol package. That arguably hurts his sales pitch for the powder in the first place, though he does say that Palcohol should be about one-third the weight of a similarly strong container of liquid alcohol. Phillips also says that Palcohol, if approved, would be sold under the same restrictions that other alcohols see, which he believes puts it in the same situation as far as minors' access to it goes.
Senator Schumer sees Palcohol as being more akin to drinks like the caffeine-infused Four Loko though, suggesting that its novelty and formula could lead to public health risks. He's called on the FDA to intervene with its approval and to make sure that consumers are aware of its risks. "With powdered alcohol on its way to store shelves by this fall, we’re sitting on a powder keg," Schumer said in a statement on Monday. "Clearly our food and drug safety experts must step in before this mind-boggling product, surely to become the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking, sees the light of day.” He's sent a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg requesting that the agency "step in" and work to assess potential health concerns.
Phillips, of course, says that those who want to ban Palcohol are ignorant of the product's positive uses and are caught up in the hysteria of ways that it might be misused. "Why would anyone want to enact prohibition-like measures to take away our rights to enjoy this wonderful product in a responsible and legal manner?" he says. It certainly won't be easy for Palcohol to combat its negative first impressions, but at the least, it's now a bit clearer how it's actually meant to be used.