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ASA bans Brewdog hard seltzer ad

The UK’s advertising watchdog has upheld complaints against hard seltzer adverts from Brewdog, Whisp and Drty Drinks for their nutritional claims.

Brewdog's Clean & Press range
Brewdog moved into hard seltzers last summer with its Clean & Press range

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) revealed several rulings today (7 July) for ads that appeared between December 2020 and January 2021 featuring Brewdog’s Clean & Press range, London-based brand Drty Drinks, and Wild Drinks Group’s Whisp hard seltzer.

Brewdog’s spirits arm, Brewdog Distilling Co, unveiled its Clean & Press range in July 2020. Each expression has an ABV of 5%, contains 90 calories and is made without sugar.

A paid-for Instagram post from Brewdog on 21 January 2021 showed an image of a can of Clean & Press Crushed Black Cherry hard seltzer and the text “Due to advertising regulations we cannot claim this drink is healthy”.

Text below the image read: “Even though Clean & Press is only 90 calories per can, with no carbs or sugar and a little bit of alcohol, this is not a health drink. If you are looking for a health drink, do not drink Clean & Press.”

The ad received eight complaints, with five of them challenging whether the text implied that the drink was healthy, breaching general health claims that are not permitted for alcoholic drinks.

The ASA questioned whether the statements “only 90 calories” and “no carbs or sugar” were nutrition claims that are not allowed for alcoholic drinks.

The regulator also challenged if the claim “a little bit of alcohol” implied that the hard seltzer was a low-alcohol drink.

The text “only 90 calories per can” was deemed a nutrition claim equivalent to a ‘low-calorie/energy’ nutrition claim, the ASA said. This is not allowed in reference to alcohol.

The ASA said: “We considered that consumers would understand from the ad that the advertiser was intending to communicate that the product was in fact healthy, but that they were not permitted to inform consumers of that fact.

“We considered the ad therefore implied that the drink was beneficial to overall good health or health-related wellbeing.”

Furthermore, the ASA said that under UK Food Information Regulations ‘low alcohol’ is defined as a drink of no more than 1.2% ABV. As such, Clean & Press did not meet this requirement.

The ASA concluded that the ad must not appear again in its current form.

In the ruling, Brewdog said that while the post was intended to be ‘tongue in cheek’, it agreed to not use the ad in future campaigns.

Brewdog said in a statement: “We have accepted the ASA ruling and have removed the wording in question.”

Drty and Whisp ads banned

In addition, two Instagram ads from hard seltzer maker Drty Drinks were banned by the ASA for encouraging excessive drinking and making nutrition claims.

The ASA also upheld a complaint against Whisp hard seltzer’s website, which featured the claim ‘Whisp is a refreshing, low-calorie, lightly alcoholic sparkling water – the perfect accomplice to a balanced lifestyle’.

Further statements on the website included ‘milk thistle natural detox hero’ and ‘healthier choice low in sugar, calories and alcohol’.

According to Whisp, the brand uses milk thistle in its recipe to ‘tackle inflammation’.

The ASA said the ads breached the Code for making general health and nutritional claims, and for stating the drink was low in alcohol, despite its 4% ABV.

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