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22 July 2021

BrewDog et al slammed by watchdog over hard seltzer claims

United Kingdom | BrewDog is in hot water with the advertise watchdog again, this time over misleading nutritional claims for its Clean & Press hard seltzer. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), on 7 July, took objections to hard seltzer ads which appeared between December 2020 and January 2021, including BrewDog’s Clean & Press range, London-based brand Drty Drinks, and Wild Drinks Group’s Whisp.

It is not as if the drinks manufacturers did not know that you need to be extremely cautious when advertising a new type of drink and making claims about it.

BrewDog launched its Clean & Press range in July 2020. Each product has 5 percent ABV, contains 90 calories and no sugar.

An Instagram post by BrewDog, on 21 January 2021, showed an image of a can of Clean & Press Crushed Black Cherry and the text “Due to advertising regulations we cannot claim this drink is healthy”. The text which followed 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.”

Beware of irony

The ASA took objection to the phrase “a little bit of alcohol”, which the ASA interpreted to mean that the drink was low in alcohol despite the product having 5 percent ABV. Apparently, the ASA misunderstood BrewDog’s irony completely. Or is the use of irony in advertising forbidden?

The ASA commented further that “only 90 calories per can” and “no carbs or sugar” were nutrition claims that were not permitted for alcoholic drinks.

BrewDog replied the ad was “tongue-in-cheek” but agreed not to use it again.

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”. The website stated that the drink uses milk thistle in its recipe to “tackle inflammation”. The ASA said this breaches the Code for making general health and nutritional claims.

Those planning to launch hard seltzers in Europe have been warned.