New releases

Hard Solo ignites controversy

In the hunt for growth, drinks companies are experimenting in new categories that blur the lines between beer, soft drinks and spirits. Enter Asahi Beverages’ alcoholic version of the iconic soft drink Solo, Hard Solo, which recently went on sale in bottle shops around the country.

However, Cancer Council WA has come out fighting over the release, describing it as a “particularly concerning example of alcohol marketing”.

It has made a complaint to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Scheme about the product.

“We submitted a complaint about Hard Solo on the basis that Solo is a well-known soft drink brand in Australia, which is popular with children and teenagers, and has highly recognisable branding, packaging, and advertising,” Cancer Council WA said.

“The Hard Solo product is an extension of the soft drink brand, using the same colours, icon and font on the packaging and the same can shape as the Solo soft drink. The appeal of Hard Solo to minors is evident given the established appeal of Solo to minors.

“Every West Australian should be able to grow up and live in an environment that supports their health and wellbeing. The current reality is that alcohol companies develop and promote products that appeal to young people, and that West Australians, including children, are constantly bombarded with promotions for alcohol. Governments can and must set higher standards for how the alcohol industry markets and sells its products.”

Why Solo got a boozy makeover

Solo is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. It was launched in 1973 and its beloved ads over the years have featured four main actors, including the original Michael Ace in the ‘70s and ‘80s, comedian Joel Creasey’s father Terry and, more recently, Wollongong’s Adam Demos who is currently starring in the Hollywood hit show “Sex/Life”.

Today, almost 60 million litres of Solo, including no-sugar Solo Zero, are consumed by Australians each year. The iconic lemon tang brand remains in over 1.7 million Australian households.

CUB spokesman Hayden Turner said Hard Solo had a taste reminiscent of the classic Solo but with a bitter finish provided by the alcohol.

The drink comes in four, 10 and 24-packs of 375mL cans and has an ABV of 4.5%.

Turner told The Sydney Morning Herald that features including distinct black cans and prominent alcohol markings ensured Hard Solo could not be confused with the non-alcoholic lemon squash drink.

The product had received pre-vetting approval from ABAC.

CUB said in a statement: “Hard Solo is sold in distinct black cans with prominent alcohol markings on the front of the can with the words ‘Alcoholic Lemon’ along with the 18+ logo, standard drinks and alcohol percentage in large and bright font.

“It is the first-time 18+ has appeared on the front of one of our alcoholic products further demonstrating our commitment to differentiate Hard Solo from regular Solo.”

CUB said Hard Solo is not being promoted through traditional out-of-home advertising, TV or radio campaigns. It is also not being advertised on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or YouTube.

Kylea Tink, the MP for North Sydney, said questions needed to be asked of the company and the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) panel.

“This is a product that looks like a soft drink, tastes like a soft drink, has the same name as a soft drink, went through a self-regulatory process and seemingly was approved to be marketed,” she said.

“To me that there is nothing about this product that makes it an acceptable product to have on the shelf when it comes to alcoholic beverages.”

US drinks companies bank on hard sodas

The release of Hard Solo follows an American boom in branded soft drinks creating “hard” versions of their best sellers.

Hard Mtn Dew

Last year Mountain Dew got a boozy boost when PepsiCo released Hard Mtn Dew

Researchers raised concerns over the soft drinks companies entering the alcoholic soda category in a deep dive report in the New York Times.

The New York Times reports: “Hard Mtn Dew reflects a major change in the alcohol industry, which for the last century mainly produced drinks categorized as beer, wine or spirits. In recent years, those lines have blurred, and a fourth category of ready-to-drink beverages has emerged — hard seltzers and other flavored malt beverages, wine coolers and canned cocktails.”

However, fans have literally lapped it up.

“I drank Hard Mountain Dew and felt like I was staring at God,” one online reviewer wrote.

Pepsico also released Lipton Hard Iced Tea, while Monster Beverage, a maker of energy drinks, began rolling out its first line of alcoholic drinks called The Beast Unleashed in February.

CUB CEO Danny Celoni said Hard Solo has hit the market with “real impact” and he was looking forward to unlocking category value growth.

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Categories: New releases