Advertising watchdog to review guidelines on promotion of zero alcohol products

Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland says review is in response to a number of complaints

Alcohol Action Ireland has recommended that the Government ban big alcohol brands from “brand sharing”, something which allows zero alcohol beers to use the same branding as their alcoholic alternatives. Photograph: Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty

Ireland’s advertising watchdog is to review the promotion of non-alcoholic products following a number of complaints.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) said it will look at publishing updated guidelines in relation to the advertising of so-called 0.0% products.

Previous guidelines, published in 2019, asked advertisers to make it clear that the nature of the product is non-alcoholic, that advertising close to schools must be avoided and advertising should not appeal to minors in either placement or content. It further states that all marketing should be clearly aimed at people aged 18 and over.

The ASAI, which is not a statutory body, said the impending review could lead to either updated industry guidance on the code or a change in the code itself. The code is voluntary but advertisers are expected to abide by it.

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As part of the review, the authority will assess similar guidance and regulation regarding 0.0% alcohol advertising and marketing communications currently in place throughout the EU.

The review will be conducted to ensure the organisation is proactively providing up-to date guidance on all areas of advertising and marketing relating to non-alcohol product variants.

ASAI chief executive Orla Twomey said the authority is aware of the “increased level of conversation and consumer concern regarding marketing communications and the advertising of non-alcohol product variants.

“We are undertaking a review to see if additional rules and/or guidance is required in light of these emerging concerns. As well as the general rules on truthfulness, honesty and substantiation, the ASAI code contains strict rules regarding the advertising of alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages, with an additional guidance note introduced in 2019 specifically focusing on advertising for non-alcohol product variants.”

Alcohol Action Ireland has recommended that the Government ban big alcohol brands from “brand sharing”, something which allows zero alcohol beers to use the same branding as their alcoholic alternatives.

Among the well-known products that share brands are Guinness and Heineken non-alcoholic beers.

The partially state-funded advocacy group believes non-alcoholic brands breach the Public Health Alcohol Act which aims to reduce alcohol use in Ireland by 20 per cent and bans certain types of alcohol advertising.

Alcohol Action Ireland claims that zero alcohol products are a way of getting around the ban on advertising alcohol products.

The claim has been denied by Drinks Ireland which has stated that the growth in zero alcohol products is in response to consumer demand and such products encourage moderation.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times