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BrewDog ‘Hard Seltzer’ ad banned over misleading claims

BrewDog has been involved in a number of controversies over the past month. Picture by Chris Sumner
BrewDog has been involved in a number of controversies over the past month. Picture by Chris Sumner

Under-fire beer giant BrewDog has been hit by controversy for the fourth time in a month, after one of its Instagram posts was banned for making misleading claims over an alcoholic drink.

The post in January for the brand’s Clean & Press Hard Seltzer read: “Due to advertising regulations we cannot claim this drink is healthy,” and continued: “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) received five complaints that the ad implied that the drink was healthy and used general health claims that were not permitted for alcoholic drinks.

The ASA also challenged whether the ad used nutrition claims that were not permitted for alcoholic drinks and whether the phrase “a little bit of alcohol” implied that the drink was low alcohol despite the product having an alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of 5%.

The Instagram post by BrewDog that has been banned for making misleading claims over an alcoholic drink. ASA/PA Wire

Ellon-based BrewDog said the ad was intended to be “tongue-in-cheek” but accepted that they breached the rules and would not use it again.

Month of controversy

The ASA ruling comes after a difficult four weeks for the business, with a number of controversies coming to light in quick succession.

On June 9, dozens of former BrewDog staff signed an open letter accusing bosses of “lies, hypocrisy and deceit” and of fostering fear in their employees.

The allegations led to an apology from CEO James Watt, and the firm’s president and chief operations officer David McDowall withdrew from speaking at an Aberdeen TedX event at the end of this month.

On June 20, Scotland on Sunday revealed that nearly a quarter of the company’s shares are held in the Cayman Islands – in contrast to its “punk” image.

Brewdog CEO James Watt. Picture by Darrell Benns

And ten days later, BrewDog was reported to the ASA after it emerged a can that it had claimed was made of “solid gold” was actually mainly brass with a gold plating.

The ASA confirmed last week it was looking into the matter, and the complaints raised over Clean & Press were handled separately.

Health claims not permitted

The ASA said “only 90 calories per can” and “no carbs or sugar” were nutrition claims that were not permitted for alcoholic drinks, as was the implication that the product was beneficial to overall good health or health-related wellbeing.

The ASA said consumers would understand the claim “a little bit of alcohol” to mean that the product was low alcohol when it had an ABV of 5%, finding that the ad breached the Code on this point also.

It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, adding: “We told BrewDog not to make health claims, or non-permitted nutrition claims about alcoholic drinks. We also told them not to make permitted nutrition claims for alcoholic drinks if the product did not meet the associated conditions of use for the claim.”

A BrewDog spokesman said: “We have accepted the ASA ruling and have removed the wording in question.”

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