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Crown Lager: The fifth ingredient is deceptive

September 5, 2011

At risk of it becoming tiresome, we return to Crown Lager’s new campaign, Time, which premiered late last week with lavish television commercials. As the campaign develops, it is obvious that this is a big-monied push by CUB to restore the fortunes of its declining premium beer. As the campaign develops it also becomes clearer that it relies on smoke and mirrors to try to lift the sagging brand in a way that would appear to risk breaching Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act 2010 by representing that the beer is an all-malt product. Quite simply it is not.

In addition to the slogan, “Time: The fifth ingredient”, the campaign comes complete with a website that says, “The finest barley, yeast, water and Pride of Ringwood hops are matured with time under an extended lagering process.” The marketing copy omits the fact that Crown is made with a significant percentage of cane sugar as the fifth ingredient. Use of cane sugar is not itself an issue, it is used in many beers, except the fact is actively being concealed and the opposite is aggressively suggested through the copy.

Compare Crown Lager’s approach with another beer that wraps itself in borrrowed style, Peroni from CUB’s current nemesis, SABMiller.

“Peroni Nastro Azzurro is the superior beer of Italy. It is brewed using the finest hops, two row spring planted barley and contains 25% Italian maize, including the proprietary variety Nostrano Dell’Isola.” (emphasis added).

Sure, saying your beer contains Nostrano Dell’Isola Italian maize sounds better than Bundaberg cane sugar – or whatever Crown use – but it is still an adjunct and it is listed.

While the ‘fifth element’ tagline could be seen as snappy copywriting at the expense of accuracy, just listing four traditional ingredients and omitting sugar on the website could be seen as deliberate concealment. Read together they are misleading.

At a time when all malt beers are coming to be seen as being premium, the tagline and the website could mislead drinkers as what goes to make Crown Lager. If so, this would be a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website,

No matter how a business communicates with you—whether it is through packaging, advertising, logos, endorsements or sales pitch—you have the right to receive accurate and truthful messages about the goods and services that you buy.


There is a very broad provision in the Australian Consumer Law that prohibits conduct by a corporation that is misleading or deceptive, or would be likely to mislead or deceive you.

It makes no difference whether the business intended to mislead or deceive you—it is how the conduct of the business affected your thoughts and beliefs that matters.

If the overall impression left by an advertisement, promotion, quotation, statement or other representation made by a business creates a misleading impression in your mind—such as to the price, value or the quality of any goods and services—then the conduct is likely to breach the law.

Whether it breaches the Act or not, far from highlighting any “premium, sophisticated style” of their beer, the CUB marketers are resorting to the tawdry tactics of used car salesman and confidence tricksters. At a time when beer sales are declining, increasing the market’s knowledge and understanding about  beer and brewing are important to turning around the category’s fortunes. This campaign shows a contempt for beer drinkers that can only enhance the alienation many feel towards beer and further diminish beer’s credibility in the market place.

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4 Responses to Crown Lager: The fifth ingredient is deceptive

  1. Damian on September 12, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Matt Hendry,
    I think you have missed the point. The article isnt about breaching the Competition and Comsumer Act based on the ingredients in the actual beer and its use of adjuncts. its lack of transparency in this advertising campaign. I agree totally with what is written in this article.

  2. Aaron on September 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I’m of the opinion that beer should be labelled as other food is with a full list of ingredients.

  3. Matt Hendry, on September 5, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    As for breaching the Competition and Comsumer Act The definition of beer is pretty board if you go by what the Federal Governments definition of Beer is and with no real labelling requirements under the any Satutory Food Laws you have to go with the ATO and Excise Laws.

    Beer has a specific meaning, that is, it must be a brewed
    beverage that:
    ■ is the product of the yeast fermentation of an aqueous
    extract of predominantly malted or unmalted cereals,
    but may also contain other sources of carbohydrates
    ■ contains hops, or extracts of hops, so that the beverage
    has no less than four International Bitterness Units or
    other bitters. If it contains other bitters, the beverage
    must have a bitterness comparable to that of a
    beverage with no less than four International Bitterness
    ■ may have spirit distilled from beer added to it if that
    spirit adds no more than 0.5% to the final total volume
    of alcohol
    ■ may have other substances, including flavours,
    containing alcohol (other than beer spirit) added
    to it but only if that alcohol adds no more than 0.5%
    to the final total volume of alcohol
    ■ contains no more than 4% by weight of
    monosaccharide and disaccharide (sugars)
    ■ does not contain any artificial sweeteners, and
    ■ has an alcohol content more than 1.15% by volume.
    You need to make sure that your beer meets the defi nition
    of beer for excise purposes. You should be able to
    establish this from your manufacturing specifi cations and
    processes and from standard industry information.
    Products that clearly meet the defi nition will not require
    testing. If you are unsure whether your product meets the
    defi nition, you should have one brew tested and as long
    as you continue to brew to that formula, you will not need
    to undertake further testing unless directed by us. You will
    need to do this for each type of beer you make where you
    are unsure it will meet the defi nition.
    As testing only covers certain elements of the defi nition,
    you will not be able to prove your beverage meets the
    defi nition completely through testing. You will need to
    keep recipe sheets and formulas together with other
    ingredient specifi cations in support of your beverage
    meeting the defi nition.
    For more information, phone us on 1300 137 290.

  4. Matt Hendry, on September 5, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I had a mate who worked at CUB in Sydney who told me that Carlton United only had two beer streams in the brewery and all difference in the beer was downstream processing ,the amount of post fermentation hop extracts and Time .So Crown lager does spend a few more days in the lagering tank than VB .But even modern premium lagers can be made in less than 3 weeks with pressurised fermentation tanks ,silica hydrogels and PVPP .

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