Sounds crazy, but whipped cream is the latest controversial “drink” on college campuses around the country.
With names like Whipped Lightning and CREAM, flavored whipped topping infused with alcohol hit shelves last year. It’s available in a wide variety of flavors including vanilla, German chocolate, raspberry, caramel and even hazelnut espresso, and news stations report the products are flying off the shelves around campus.
Alcoholic “hybrid products” such as the recently-banned Four Loko are often geared toward the younger crowd, which of course includes college students. Colorful packaging and creative marketing techniques push the products at young adults. Florida’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving had never even heard of alcoholic whipped cream in November 2010, but says that it would be concerned about the high level of alcohol packed in a product that most people consider dessert.
A can of Whipped Lightning looks remarkably similar the pumpkin-pie staple known as Reddi-Wip, but it contains 18% alcohol. Its competitor CREAM contains 15% total alcohol content—more than three times the amount found in most beers. “It has a very strong alcoholic taste to it,” Yogi Patel, owner of Town Liquors in Dartmouth, Massachusetts told the Cape Cod Times.
“It’s whipped cream with a little bite to it,” agrees Paul Fitzpatrick, general manager of Cotuit Liquors in Marstons Mills, Massachussetts.
According to Chris Utter, the brand manager of Kingfish Spirits of Cleveland which manufactures CREAM, sales have been strong since June, particularly among the college crowd. However, he also says that the product is geared to 25- to 35-year-olds as well as bars and restaurants that specialize in after-dinner drinks and that the alcoholic whipped cream is intended as a top-off to drinks such as coffee, hot chocolate and espresso.
Whipped Lightning’s website shares a similar sentiment. “Whipped cream’s not just for kids anymore, it’s all about style & sophistication,” the company says.
Sophisticated might be a stretch. A random sampling of comments from the CREAM Facebook fan page include:
In November, Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post’s Campus Overload blogged, “Right. I am sure college students are going to plunk down around $12.99 for a can of whipped cream with a high alcohol content because they want to add a classy puff of alcoholic fluff to the top of a German Chocolate eight-layer cake,” but Orlando’s WFTV reports that liquor stores around the University of Central Florida say the new form of booze is flying off the shelves.
“I think it’s awesome, you can throw it on some Jell-O shots, it’d be fantastic,” UCF student Bo Frisby said in a video interview.
“I’m not surprised, it’s college. I’m not surprised at all actually. I’m actually shocked they didn’t come up with it sooner,” said UCF student John Washington.
UCF students are not alone. Joanna Crown, a nursing major at Florida Gulf Coast University, told her school’s newspaper Eagle News that “you can’t even taste the alcohol in the whipped cream, making it that much better.”
MSNBC says the “alco-whip” products are available in various states, costing between nine and 12 dollars, and wonders whether the products should be banned by the government.
Because alcoholic whipped cream products like CREAM and Whipped Lightning are more “adult beverage” than food, they’re not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or sold in supermarkets. “People don’t always know how much alcohol they are ingesting with these kind of products,” Michael Botticelli, director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, said in an e-mailed statement.
TIME reports that Dr. Anita Barry, a director at the Boston Public Health Department, has said drinkers who consume boozy toppings like Whipped Lightning and CREAM “can get a significant amount of alcohol in one shot.” She also worries whether canisters prominently mention that the product contains high alcohol levels.
Nick Pasquarosa, the school resource police officer in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, works with students younger than the college crowd but says that CREAM is just a new wrinkle to an ongoing problem: Alcohol use is pervasive among teens and adults must keep bottles — from bourbon to laced whipped cream — out of reach.
“Kids aren’t sophisticated drinkers,” he told the Cape Cod Times. “Whether it tastes like moonshine or Kool-Aid, they’ll want to get their hands on it if they think it’s cool.”
Whether it’s Four Loko, CREAM or whatever trendy new product hits the shelves next, the truth is that college students drink. Educating them about their actions is one way to— hopefully— help spread the word about the dangers of drinking.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Prevention, the consequences of excessive and underage drinking affect virtually all college campuses, college communities, and college students, whether they are younger or older than the minimum legal drinking age and whether or not they choose to drink.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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