A paid-for post on social media site Instagram for Clean & Press Hard Seltzer in January 2021 read: “due to advertising regulations we cannot claim this drink is healthy.” Text below this 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.”
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) challenged whether the claims “only 90 calories per can” and “no carbs or sugar” were nutrition claims that were not permitted for alcoholic drinks, as stated in the Code of Advertising Practice (the Code).
A further five complainants argued that the text of the ad might imply the drink was healthy and were therefore general health claims.
The ASA also challenged whether the claim “a little bit of alcohol” implied that the drink was low alcohol, which was not a permitted claim for the drink because it had an alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of 5%.
BrewDog said that, while the claims on the ad were intended to be “tongue in cheek”, it accepted it had breached the Code and agreed they would not be used in future campaigns.
The ASA upheld all three claims as breaches of the Code – for misleading advertising, unsolicited health claims – and ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form. See the box below for the breaches.
It also cautioned BrewDog to not make health claims or not-permitted nutrition claims about alcoholic drinks and not to make permitted nutrition claims for alcoholic drinks if the product did not meet the associated conditions of use for the claim.
Meanwhile, small business are to be exempt from the Government’s ban on junk food advertising, as sweeping bans on ads for foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) come into force next year.
Adverts for HFSS foods will not be allowed to be shown before 9pm on TV and UK on-demand programmes. The restrictions will only apply to businesses with 250 or more employees.
BrewDog ad breaches to the Code of Advertising Practice
According to the ASA, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules:
15.1 – Marketing communications that contain nutrition or health claims must be supported by documentary evidence to show they meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant claim, as specified in the EU Register.
15.1.1 – Only nutrition claims listed in the updated Annex of the EU Regulation (as reproduced in the EU Register) may be used in marketing communications.
15.2 – References to general benefits of a nutrient or food for overall good health or health-related well-being are acceptable only if accompanied by a specific authorised health claim.
18.17 – Marketing communications may give factual information about product contents, including comparisons, but must not make any health, fitness or weight-control claims.
The only permitted nutrition claims are “low-alcohol”, “reduced alcohol” and “reduced energy” and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer.