A paid-for post on Instagram from BrewDog, posted on 21 January 2021, included an image of a can of Clean & Press Hard Seltzer and the text “Due to advertising regulations we cannot claim this drink is healthy”.
The text below the image stated “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.”
But the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said claims for only 90 calories per can and no carbs or sugar equated to nutrition claims that are not permitted on alcoholic drinks.
And it also upheld complaints that said the tongue-in-cheek slogan implied that the drink was, in fact, healthy.
'90 calories' vs 'only 90 calories'
The CAP Code for advertising alcoholic drinks does allow alcoholic drinks to give factual admissions about products such as calorie content – such as ’90 calories per can’.
“However, we considered that by preceding that statement with the word “only”, the ad suggested that the drink had the particular beneficial nutritional property of being low in calories (i.e. energy)," said the ASA. "The claim “only 90 calories per can” was therefore a nutrition claim equivalent to a ‘low calorie/energy’ nutrition claim.
"However, it was not permitted to make a ‘low calorie/energy’ nutrition claim in relation to alcohol. Because the claims “only 90 calories per can” and “no carbs or sugar” were nutrition claims that were not permitted for alcoholic drinks, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.”
Another UK alcohol brand also fell foul of the ASA this week for making a nutritional claim on an alcoholic drink: again for emphasizing the descriptor ‘under’ in the text ‘Under 100 calories per can’.
Long Ashton Holdings Ltd t/a High Water will change the messaging on its hard seltzer website to ‘ranges from 93 to 99 calories per can’ as a result.
When it came to the text – ‘Due to advertising regulations we cannot claim this drink is healthy’ – the ASA noted the message was tongue-in-cheek. But it said the ultimate implication was that the drink was, in fact, healthy.
“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 well-being.
"Because such health claims were not permitted for alcoholic drinks, we concluded that the ad breached the Code."
5% ABV is not low alcohol
While the 5% ABV hard seltzer did not label itself as ‘low alcohol’, the ASA took issue with the phrase ‘a little bit of alcohol’ used in its advertising.
“We considered that the claim was likely to be understood by consumers to mean that the product was low in alcohol. Low alcohol claims are permitted for alcoholic drinks under the Code. However, the UK Food Information Regulations (2014) state that the description ‘low alcohol’ (and any other word or description that implied that the drink was low alcohol) should not be applied to any drink of more than 1.2% ABV.”
Problematic text won't be used again
Brewdog plc responded to the ASA that, although the claims in the ad were intended to be tongue in cheek, it accepted that they breached the Code and agreed that they would not be used in future campaigns.