The pseudoscientific spectacle of @BangEnergy.CEO
Plus: keto Bud Light, Starbucks' union-busting moves + more!
Editor’s note: For more original reporting on the booze business, labor, and beyond, please subscribe to Fingers now. I’m running a sale on annual subscriptions through 10/22/21:
Thanks for supporting independent journalism.—Dave
Bang Energy’s chaotic chief executive, Jack Owoc is an iron-pumping MAGA maniac who likes to be photographed with TikTok fitness influencers less than half his age, and once got sued by a competitor for claiming that his products could “reverse mental retardation” and “help” Alzheimer’s.1 The high school science teacher-turned-“chief scientific officer” has a catchphrase that objectively rules (“If you ain’t Banging, you ain’t hanging”), which he often bellows hoarsely in videos posted to his 1.1M-follower Instagram account.
Owoc’s Instagram has been a small obsession here at Fingers HQ for a while now. It’s like Creed Thoughts meets Tony Perkis, Ben Stiller’s psychotic fat-camp fuhrer from the 1995 Disney classic Heavyweights. As I’ve written before, if you’re looking for a quackishly unhinged #content machine to add to your feed, @BangEnergy.CEO most certainly has you covered. Case in point: the other day, Owoc posted a video of himself receiving an injection of what he referred to as “CTM Boost.”
In the caption, the exec describes the treatment as “preventative medicine” to combat shoulder wear-and-tear from “years of heavy lifting.” More specifically, according to the doctor wielding the syringe in the video, it’s bunch of birth tissue (emphasis mine throughout):
What you’re seeing is mixed connective tissue fragments that contain the growth factors... you're seeing that tissue, that is placental umbilical cord derived. That's ground up and mixed with the lidocaine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Owoc shooting up weird shit and posting it for clout, and I’ve got no beef with regenerative medicine.2 But still, it’s a little bizarre to see a Republican megadonor who regularly posts bible verses and prayers to GOD and CHRIST JESUS in BLOCK CAPS filming himself receiving birth tissue injections to help him achieve #gains.
After all, for decades, right-wing evangelical Christians have been obsessed with the scientifically false idea that doing research with embryonic stem cells was tantamount to murder.3 And in 2015, the anti-abortion brain geniuses at the Center for Medical Progress (which, in keeping with the longstanding convention of shadowy right-wing orgs, was founded to promote the exact opposite of what its name suggests) opened a fierce new front in American’s culture war by accusing Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue to medical researchers.4 That’s “falsely,” because since the early ‘80s, said researchers have very legally purchased said tissues to develop—you guessed it!—regenerative medical applications like the one Bang Energy’s CEO dosed himself with on Instagram.
(Of course, the GOP never gave up on its main fetally-oriented outrage machine, abortion rights. Just a few weeks ago, the Trump-installed conservative majority on the Supreme Court upheld Texas’ draconian abortion ban, signaling the likely demise of Roe vs. Wade. If you’re wondering what that has to do with Owoc, wonder no more: he and his company, Vital Pharmaceuticals, donated at least $750,000 to Trump’s campaign and associated PACs during the 2020 election. Neat!)
Right-wing hypocrisy is to be expected, and not particularly funny. But what is funny is that the natal slurry Owoc pumped into his bloodstream may just be snake oil anyway. Shocking, I know. The company behind this “biologic solution” is Palm Beach’s CTM Biomedical, which barely exists online save for a sparse website. One of the top Google results for the firm is a July 2020 blog post by the physician physician-founder at different regenerative medicine firm5, who thinks both the product’s medical benefits and the firm itself are pretty dubious:
CTM doesn’t make their products like many of the placental tissue companies out there. The company is listed in a guy’s apartment in Palm Beach or a PO box and has a handful of sales reps… The biggest issue in the world of amniotic and placental or umbilical cord products is ridiculous hype. That began with the idea that these products had living, young, and vital stem cells. That bubble was burst by the published tests on these products showing no living cells, let alone stem cells… The fact that CTM Biomedical has chosen to call these dead tissue pluripotent is just plain bizarre. That’s taking hype to a new level.
Questionable science married to spectacular hype for profit? No wonder Bang’s founder is shooting this stuff: that’s l’essence de Owoc, baby! I’m realizing now that this coverage might have convinced you that you should not, under any circumstance, follow @BangEnergy.CEO on Instagram. But even if you don’t, his #content may find you elsewhere. In the caption of the Facebook Live video of Owoc’s shot, his doctor wrote: “also watch out for him on @netflix , coming soon !” Given the source, and Owoc’s penchant for self-promotion, this might just be pure bullshit. Then again, that’s never stopped him before.
📬 Good post alert
Here’s a Truly cold-blooded take from the data-driven gang at Sightlines, the newly spun-off industry subscription offering from Good Beer Hunting) on Boston Beer Company’s hard seltzer sales shortfall, resultant stock slide, and new shareholder lawsuit:
⏭️ Meet Next, Bud Light’s carb-free long-shot
Last week Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is doing amazing, thanks, why do you ask?, announced the coming release of Bud Light Next, a 4% ABV beer that clocks in at 80 calories and zero carbs that the company has supposedly been developing for a decade. Finally, you’ll be able to honestly tell your friends you’re buying the “Next round” without putting your ketosis at risk! I assume you’re thrilled.
Or maybe you’re not. But ABI’s major shareholders might be. The megabrewer desperately needs a hit or several in the U.S., where sales of Bud Light sales (not to mention Bud Heavy, lol) have been on the decline for years. Recent line extensions on the Bud Light brand have been a mixed bag—from fruity spinoffs like The Ritas, née Bud Light, to the workhorse Chelada family, to FMB also-rans like Seltzer and Lemonade—but #wellness-oriented drinkers are supposedly clamoring for “healthier” beverage options across the soft-to-hard drink spectrum.
So ABI is placing what Bud Light VP Andy Goeler described to AdWeek as one of its “big bets” on Bud Light Next, hoping it’ll find audience with… I don’t know, thirsty 24.5 year-old paleo bros who own multiple pairs of both Allbirds and Birddogs and use “grub” as a verb? Hmm. The line extension won’t hit shelves until February, at which time ABI will presumably use all the money it was never going to spend on a Budweiser commercial for a Next spot instead. Plenty of time to figure out those last nitty-gritty details, such as:
Who actually wants to drink this stuff;
How it should be positioned next to Michelob Ultra, a low-carb beer that people actually want;
While we’re on the subject of Bud Light Next’s branding, we simply must acknowledge MTV’s Next, a gloriously mid-Aughts dating series in which people made snap judgments about who they would and would not bang for the entertainment of you, the American cable TV viewer. This brings up an important metaphysical dilemma: if Bud Light Next existed in the same space and time as MTV’s Next, is it possible that someone could be nexted for admitting they drink Next? A real nextus of the universe, that. (Sorry.)
🧾 The Bottom Shelf
Starbucks Is Waging a Ridiculous, Sinister Union-Busting Campaign: As Buffalo Starbucks workers continue to organize for an upcoming union election, the corporation continues to give the lie to its progressive veneer by engaging in union-busting 101. The coffee giant is trying to expand voting eligibility to all 450 workers in the city, rather than just those at the unionizing stores, in a classic effort to water-down the election. It’s also sending its executives to do menial tasks in its Buffalo locations, resulting in incredibly cringe-y moments of “one big family” corporate vaudeville like this lol:
Revolt of the Delivery Workers: For Curbed, Josh Dzieza went long on the daily indignities, exploitations, and dangers delivery guys in NYC contend with as they fulfill dozens of orders for shit pay from billion-dollar platforms like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats. One worker calls the platforms “patrón fantasma, the phantom boss — always watching and quick to punish you.” This is excellent reporting and it has implications for the drinking public, too: Uber acquired booze delivery leader Drizly earlier this year for $1B, and delivery platform goPuff has been buying up smaller platforms.
How a WV Barrel Company Is Turning Heads in the Bourbon Industry: A nifty little look from my long-ago Thrillist compatriot Bill Kearney at how an Appalachian cooperage is trying to break into the clandestine, highly lucrative business of of bourbon barrel manufacture using infrared and CNC tech.
BuzzBallz, TikTok and the Mechanics of Accidental Virality: “We’ve gone from, ‘I am drinking a Four Loko and it’s funny because the can is really ugly and there’s weird chemicals in it,’ to, ‘I am drinking a BuzzBall and I’m glad that my money is going to a women-owned company which cares enough to list all the ingredients on the front of the plastic sphere-can.’”
If you haven’t followed Fingers yet, you’re missing out on daily original memes about the booze business. Don’t do that! Do this instead:
Your feed will thank you. (Not really, that would be weird. But you know what I mean.)
Via Vital Pharmaceuticals, Bang’s parent company, he countersued, claiming Monster infringed on Bang’s trademarks. For more on Owoc’s proclivity for pseudoscience, I highly recommend this 2019 report from Popular Information’s Judd Legum.
In theory, at least. Under the United States’ for-profit healthcare regime, though, the industry seems, uh… pretty under-regulated!
In 2006, then-President George W. Bush issued the first veto of his presidency on a bill to expand stem cell research, and while the the issue had somewhat faded by 2012 in favor of birtherism and other Tea Party bullshit, it still made it into a draft plank of the Republican Party’s platform that year.
After investigations by 15 states and three congressional committees led by sniveling dweebs like Congressmen Jason Chaffetz (former R-Utah), Trey Gowdy (fmr. R-SC), and Jim Jordan (R-OH), no evidence of wrongdoing was found. In 2019, a federal jury ordered CMP to pay $2.2 million in damages to Planned Parenthood.
To be fair, this blog was published on Regenexx, a company that licenses its patents on “interventional-orthopedic technologies and protocols,” and may have a competitive interest in making other regenerative medical treatments look shady. A 2019 New York Times report called Regenexx “one of the boldest players in the growing industry” of interventional orthopedics, noting that it’s “trying to commercialize stem cells and move them into mainstream medicine, while also seeking to distance itself from outfits that have injured patients and drawn fire from regulators.” The whole regenerative medicine industry is pretty under-regulated,