Hard Seltzers: how to keep your marketing communications as sparkling as your water

Hard Seltzers (alcoholic sparkling waters) have taken off this year, and drinks manufacturers are piling in to bring us their own unique twist. But, as with any new product, it is very important that marketers ensure that their ads are compliant.

Ads for Hard Seltzer drinks have often associated them with a modern, conscious consumer who cares about what they put into their bodies. So marketers should be especially cautious not to make unauthorised health or nutrition claims about Hard Seltzers, or to mislead about the amount of alcohol they contain. Here are four things to watch out for.

1. Alcohol Strength

Typically, a Hard Seltzer drink contains between 4-6% ABV. Marketers must be careful not to breach the Codes by stating, or implying that anything with more than 1.2% ABV Is “low alcohol”.

The ASA ruled that an ad breached the Code by including the claim “a little bit of alcohol” for those reasons.

Please see this CAP AdviceOnline about Low Alcohol Drinks for more information.

2. Health Claims

The Codes do not permit marketing communications for alcoholic drinks, including hard seltzers, to make any health, fitness or weight-control claims. (Please see CAP Code rules about Alcohol).

Even claims made in a light-hearted way are likely to breach the Code. The ASA ruled that claim “DUE TO ADVERTISING REGULATIONS WE CANNOT CLAIM THIS DRINK IS HEALTHY” breached the Code. The ASA also ruled that the claim that a product was “For those who love catching up with friends without undoing all the good from their active lifestyle” breached the Code.

3. Nutrition claims

The ASA has seen several ads for Hard Seltzer drinks that make claims about the calorie content and sugar content of the drinks. In many cases, these will be nutrition claims for the purposes of the Code.

Only nutrition claims authorised on the Great Britain nutrition and health claims (NHC) Register or the EU Register (for claims made in Northern Ireland) are permitted in marketing communications, and there are only three that are authorised for alcoholic drinks.

The ASA ruled that an ad breached the Code by describing drinks as “low calorie” and “Low in sugar, calories”.

For more information about these types of claim, have a look at the Alcohol and Food sections of the CAP Code.

4. Responsibility

Marketers of Hard Seltzers have to make sure that their advertising is responsible. They mustn’t contain anything that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise; imply that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or imply that it is indispensable or take priority in life.

This is a new product, with lots of new entrants into the market. We encourage those marketers who want to make sure their non-broadcast ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful to use our free Copy Advice Service. 

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