The ABAC Adjudication Panel says it has determined that the packaging design of the alcoholic beverage Hard Solo has breached the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code.
Thepanel's decision followed the receipt of multiple public complaints raising concerns that the brand name and can design of the product strongly appeals to minors.
“The panel decided that the packaging breached the standard contained in Part 3(b)(i) of the code by having strong or evident appeal to minors. This followed careful consideration of the public complaints and the detailed submissions from Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), the producers of Hard Solo. The process involved CUB seeking a re-hearing of the Panel’s earlier provisional determination,” ABAC panel chair, Professor Michael Lavarch said.
Lavarch said this was the first occasion the panel has been called upon to assess the packaging of a Ready to Drink (RTD) product with a brand name and core branding elements taken from a well-established and iconic soft drink brand.
A previous survey by independent market research and strategy firm Lewers, found that the responses of over 8000 Australians were incredibly polarised, with some finding it intriguing, while others found its message confusing.
“CUB were careful to devise a packaging design that identified Hard Solo as an alcoholic beverage and not a soft drink. However, the panel believed a reasonable person would probably understand that as a household soft drink brand found in an estimated 1.7 million homes, stocked in supermarkets and convenience stores and marketed freely without the restrictions placed on alcohol products, Solo was an entirely familiar and relatable brand to 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 of Solo.
“Hard Solo was a novel case in that previous RTD 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. Hard Solo packaging in contrast is led by the brand recognition of Solo soft drink. Because of the novel issue, the number of complaints spread over a month and the two-stage process for final decisions on brand names and packaging, the panel determination was lengthy, and the process has taken several months to finalise. Most ABAC decisions are made within 30 days.”
CUB, which is owned by Asahi, has reportedly accepted the decision and advised that in accordance with the ABAC Rules has immediately ceased further orders for production of this packaging. Transition provisions apply to pre-existing stocks.