NEW YORK (Reuters) - Garishly labeled and syrupy sweet, packing a jolt of caffeine and a wallop of alcohol, the drink Four Loko became a runaway hit.
That is until authorities started banning it, driving lovers of the drink to classified ad website Craigslist to get their fix at inflated prices.
One seller this week advertised 10 cans of Four Loko for $175, nearly six times it’s original shelf price.
Nicknamed “blackout in a can”, Four Loko grabbed national headlines when nine college students in Washington state were hospitalized after drinking it and similar beverages off-campus.
Health experts say mixing alcohol and caffeine is dangerous because the stimulant masks the effects of the alcohol, allowing people to continue drinking long after they would have otherwise stopped.
The Food and Drug Administration warned recently that the caffeinated alcohol drinks are not safe and some states have banned it from store shelves. Chicago-based Phusion Projects, which makes Four Loko, said that it no longer would add caffeine to the beverage.
The warning apparently has not stopped some enthusiasts.
Derek Kunimora, 26, a tax accountant in Huntington Beach, California, on Friday said in a telephone interview he had been flooded with calls from both collectors and amateurs who saw his Craigslist ad for 10 Four Loko cans for $175.
“I guess people are kind of hooked on it,” Kunimora said. “It’s kind of a novelty now, and some people are willing to spend on it.”
As of Friday, the New York section of Craigslist showed ten different ads for the last five days offering up cases or individual cans of the stuff, which comes in flavors such as grape, fruit punch and blue raspberry.
One seller in Nassau County, Long Island, advertised a case containing 12 cans for $65.
Lest a buyer worry, the ad specified there are “no dents on cans, mint condition, in original cases.”
One man from Rhode Island, John Lynch, said in a telephone interview that he bought more than 60 cases of 12-cans each in anticipation of the rush.
“My plan was to resell because I knew it was going to be a collector’s item,” said Lynch, 27, a truck driver.
Lynch said he gets 10 to 15 emails a day and has “bartered” at least 100 cans in the last week for things of equal value.
Phusion Projects has told FDA all of its caffeinated, alcoholic Four Loko will to be off store shelves by December 13, the FDA said.
“It’s the last hurrah to get this stuff,” Kunimora said.
Reporting by Basil Katz, Editing by Greg McCune