Furthermore, hard seltzer brands should take care not to make any health claims on their products – something that is prohibited both by the industry code and by law.
The recommendations come as the industry self-regulator – which is funded by industry giants including Diageo, Heineken, Bacardi and Carlsberg – updates its guidance for hard seltzers.
65% of consumers don't understand 'hard' and 'seltzers'
Drawing on their popularity in the US, hard seltzers (alcoholic sparkling water) in the UK are expected to grow, with an increase from £10m to £600m by 2025.
As the market grows, awareness of hard seltzers has doubled with around 14% of adults having heard of the category, new research from The Portman Group shows.
However, understanding of the term ‘hard seltzer’ is still low. In the UK, the term ‘hard’ is rarely used to refer to alcoholic products: and the research shows that 65% of consumers fail to recognize what it means when the word ‘hard’ is linked to ‘seltzer’.
As a result, The Portman Group wants companies to ensure products present ample cues that such drinks are alcoholic. The updated guidance on hard seltzers recommends that the alcohol by volume (ABV) and references to ‘alcohol’ or the word ‘alcoholic’ is included on the front of the packaging as best practice to reduce the risk of consumer confusion.
In the US, hard seltzers are often marketed as a healthier, low-calorie option for drinkers. In the UK, it is against the law to make any health claims by alcoholic drinks, and this is also stipulated in the Portman Group Code of Practice Naming, Packaging and Promotion.
Health claims are not permissible for alcohol drinks containing more than 1.2 ABV, and nutritional claims are only acceptable when meeting the criteria set out in the retained EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations 2006.
Multiple UK brands have already been pulled up by the UK's advertising watchdog for making - or simply implying - health claims on hard seltzers.
Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, said: “The UK is the leading European market for hard seltzers, but the phrase has yet to be anglicized and commonly understood. It is therefore incumbent on producers to ensure that UK consumers have additional cues to ensure that they understand that ‘hard’ products are alcoholic and are not alluding to a product’s higher alcoholic strength.
“We would also remind producers not to make health or wellness claims. Our free Advisory Service can offer advice on the marketing of hard seltzers and other products.”
Read the updated guidance in full here.