EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 13, 2013

Controversial malt liquor to be sold in NH

Liquor Commission reverses it April decision to ban Mojo from New Hampshire stores

By Doug Ireland

---- — A controversial malt liquor will soon find its way onto New Hampshire store shelves.

The state Liquor Commission has reversed course and approved the sale of Mojo, a fruit-flavored beverage.

Commissioners voted in April to prohibit Mojo from being sold in the Granite State because they were concerned it could be easily mistaken for bottled water.

The commission, led by Chairman Joseph Mollica, ruled the alcohol content listed on the plastic bottles’ labels was too difficult to read.

But James Wilson, the commission’s director of enforcement and licensing, said the manufacturer, Irokos Group LLC of Boston, appealed the decision and the panel reconsidered its ruling.

Irokos manager Sidiki Fadika claimed Mojo’s plastic bottles were clearly labeled as alcohol and would not confuse consumers. The appeal was overturned in late May, he said.

“The commission determined the producer provided sufficient proof,” Wilson said.

Fadika said Monday he felt justice had been served. Mojo is no different than any other malt beverage being sold in New Hampshire, he said.

“It had nothing to do with the product,” Fadika said. “The bottles didn’t even look like a water.”

Mojo — available in tropical fruit, strawberry kiwi and fruit punch — is expected to hit grocery and convenience store shelves in either late June or early July, he said.

But New Hampshire law prohibits the sale of malt beverages with an alcohol content exceeding 6 percent. Mojo is 7 percent alcohol.

So, Fadika said the company lowered the content to 5.9 percent. The first run is 2,000 cases, he said.

Fadika said he has contracts with four distributors, who will sell Mojo to stores across the state.

The beverage is available for sale in more than a dozen states, including Massachusetts. There have been no concerns about the packaging in those states, Fadiks said.

But some New Hampshire store managers and employees interviewed said they aren’t familiar with Mojo and didn’t know if their businesses would begin selling the beverage.

Mojo is available at dozens of liquor and convenience stores in Massachusetts.

Yet some Merrimack Valley retailers said they either won’t stock Mojo or have stopped doing so because it just doesn’t sell well.

One Andover store representative said it took seven months to sell four cases of the drink.

Pat Patel, manager of Mount Vernon Liquor Store in Lawrence, said Mojo sales at his store have been poor. Since it’s fruit flavored, the drink is mostly purchased by women, he said.

Fadika said Mojo is for both sexes.

“Definitely, we get a huge percentage of women buying the product,” he said. “But we have a lot of guys who enjoy the product, too.”