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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Hard Solo fizzles with regulator over under-age appeal

A well-known soft drink brand will change the packaging and name of its alcoholic version following public complaints that its design appealed to minors.


A stock image of bottles of Fanta and Solo soft drinks . Image AAP

The alcoholic version of the carbonated lemon-flavoured soft drink Solo will be rebranded after the beverage's design fizzed out with the regulator over concerns the design strongly appealed to minors.


The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) adjudication panel determined Hard Solo breached the panel's responsible alcohol marketing code following 10 complaints from the public over the brand's name and can design.


The decision comes after the panel previously determined the alcoholic drink's design met the standards.


While the panel accepted the beverage's producer Carlton and United Breweries was careful to devise a design that identified Hard Solo as an alcoholic beverage, it found the brand recognition, which could be found in an estimated 1.7 million homes, was entirely familiar and relatable to minors.


Michael Lavarch says using the same Solo in Hard Solo could increase the drink's appeal for minors.


"Using the Solo name and other branding features on Hard Solo would elevate the appeal of Hard Solo and create an illusion for minors of a smooth transition from the non-alcoholic to alcoholic variant," the panel's chair Michael Lavarch said.


The decision is the first of its kind for the regulator relating to a ready-to-drink product with a brand name and core branding elements taken from a well-established soft drink brand.


"Previous ready-to-drink packaging designs considered by ABAC had been built upon emphasising an alcohol type or a well-known alcohol brand being combined with a soft drink such as cola or ginger ale," Professor Lavarch said.


"Hard Solo packaging in contrast is led by the brand recognition of Solo soft drink."


The brewery said it was disappointed with the outcome, but accepted the panel's decision, pausing further orders until a new compliant design is produced.


It will rename the drink Hard Rated.


The regulator, made up of two public health experts and two experts in media or marketing and a chair, encourages responsible alcohol packaging and marketing. 


It does not regulate physical alcohol beverages, nor decide whether alcoholised soft drinks should be permitted in the market.


Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive Caterina Giorgi said the reversal showed that the industry-led scheme is not working.  


"The ABAC, which was set up and is run by alcohol companies and their lobbyists, waved Hard Solo through by 'pre-vetting the product' before it hit the shelves in July," she said.


"Now the very same scheme is saying that this product appeals to kids.  


"Today's announcement just confirms the very obvious point that alcohol companies and lobbyists cannot be trusted to set their own rules about alcohol marketing."


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