An ABAC panel has judged on a number of complaints which relate to the marketing of seltzers.
In one of the three seltzer rulings, the ABAC’s adjudication panel acknowledged that there had been a “virtual explosion in alcoholic seltzers in Australia” following the growth of the category in the US. In the past two years, Lion has brought White Claw seltzers to Australia, and brewers including Bodriggy, accelerator Mighty Craft and Stone & Wood have launched their own versions.
The panel said there was a large number of producers competing with very similar products, which meant that unsurprisingly marketing strategies became the main differentiator between brands. As such, it may be inevitable that more seltzers face ABAC.
In the latest round of adjudications, two out of the three seltzer complaints were dismissed, but one was upheld, with the majority of complaints relating to a potential appeal to minors or packaging.
In addition, a number of other beer brands, including Peroni, Mr Banks and 10 Toes also faced a panel over issues relating to packaging and advertisement placements.
Moon Dog’s Fizzer
Moon Dog Craft Brewery launched its Post Mix Machine seltzer dispensers earlier this year, following which it ran a competition to win the use of its seltzer dispenser for six months.
It was this competition that was at the centre of a complaint to ABAC. A correspondent objected to the marketing of the competition, saying that post-mix machines have been almost exclusively used for soft drink dispensing.
The promotion “attempts to blur the line between soft drinks and alcohol to the point where it is appealing to minors and creates a transition between soft drinks and alcohol,” the complainant argued.
Moon Dog responded to the complaint saying that the alcoholic seltzer category’s lack of on-premises penetration to date “can be directly linked to limitations on available bulk dispensing options”. As a result, the Melbourne brewery has invested $7 million to date on the dispensing solution.
The brewery argued that there were no additional features that could be said to be attractive to minors, and the post is age-restricted on Instagram.
An ABAC panel agreed, noting the above points and suggested that offering a prize like a post-mix machine is not likely to be considered by minors as a “desirable item to own”. The social media posts were not considered to be appealing to minors, and the panel dismissed the complaint.
Wayward’s W Seltzer
Social media marketing for the W Seltzer brand from Sydney’s Wayward Brewing Co. also faced an ABAC panel.
The complaint concerned an Instagram post which stated “my exercise routine consists of sweating out alcohol so I can go drinking again”, which the complainant said “encourages unhealthy drinking habits”.
While the panel said the post would probably be perceived as humorous that seriously advocating unhealthy alcohol use, the messaging is based on a shared understanding that excessive alcohol consumption can be ‘sweated out’ and consumption resumed, which “does not model responsible alcohol use” consistent with its standards.
The panel upheld the complaint.
A complaint relating to a number of Facebook and Instagram posts by the Gold Coast-based Hard Fizz seltzer brand promoting a competition.
The complainant argued that Hard Fizz “is promoting excessive consumption and appealing to minors with its Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style game”. The unnamed complainant said that the competition encourages people to buy as many alcoholic beverages as possible.
Having a strong appeal to minors is banned by ABAC, and the company retaliated against the complaint saying that it could see no correlation between the marketing and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, highlighting FB’s golden can competition which it said was a common tactic in the marketplace.
The adjudicators ruled that as the competition is not open to minors, any ‘golden ticket’ competition mechanism had moved well beyond Charlie and the Chocolate Factory references and as a whole it would not have a strong appeal to minors. They dismissed the complaint.
A number of other beer brands and breweries faced an ABAC adjudication panel in the past month.
10 Toes Brewery’s Culture Kick Sour Ales range and its packaging was amongst these complaints, with one correspondent writing that “they have multiple cans with ice-creams and a pie on which all look appealing to young children”.
The ABAC panel acknowledged that 10 Toes is not a signatory of the code, which it admitted was not unusual for smaller craft breweries as many small producers have not formally joined the ABAC scheme. However, it was surprised and disappointed that 10 Toes did not reply, the panel remarked, saying it was “very unusual” for a company not to respond to a public complaint.
The panel said that it does not stipulate that packaging has to declare overtly that a product is an alcoholic one, but in this case it is not guaranteed that the public would understand a Fruit Sour product to be alcoholic, citing its earlier survey.
As a result, the panel ruled that the packaging was in breach of its code regarding appeal to minors, consisting of bright colours, imagery of desserts and descriptors associating the beers with non-alcoholic products which are appealing to children.
Carlton & United Breweries portfolio brand Peroni was also up against ABAC, with a complainant criticising the frequency and timing of an advertisement on Channel 9 and its affiliated channels.
CUB responded saying that the advert had received ABAC pre-vetting approval, but also that the advertisement in question was not actually shown by Channel 9 during the week before the complaint was submitted, but was in fact aired on Channels 7 and 10.
CUB highlighted the programmes available on the channels at the time, which they argued were not primarily aimed at minors. It provided age demographics for the channels and programmes during which the Peroni advert was aired, predominantly showing an over-18 age range.
The adjudication panel ruled that ABAC Placement Rules were not breached as CUB and the channels had age restrictions in place and the majority of the audience of the programmes during which the adverts were aired were adults.
Mr Banks Brewing, now rebranded to Banks Brewing, faced criticism for its Fairy Cake Oat Cream IPA with a complainant arguing that the beer can’s design appeals to children, describing the font as “curly and cutesy, and the background has a soft pastel colour scheme with sprinkles”.
Banks responded saying that it was a limited release and as of early October, there were no more cases left for sale and that it was clearly identified as an IPA.
An ABAC panel judged that the pattern of sprinkles and colours would resonate and be familiar to minors, as would the overall impact of the packaging.
It upheld the complaint.