A new alcoholic version of popular soft drink Solo has sparked a formal complaint amid concerns it could appeal to underage drinkers.
The Cancer Council of Western Australia lodged a complaint to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Scheme, The Sydney Morning Herald reports, arguing the drink’s manufacturer Asahi has breached the section of the code preventing alcoholic drinks from containing a “strong and evident appeal” to minors.
Alcohol producers voluntarily agree to adhere to the code when advertising their products. It was updated on August 1 to address increased concerns about the use of soft drink and confectionary flavours, and the marketing of alcohol products.
“Solo is a well-known soft drink brand in Australia, is popular with children and teenagers, and has highly recognisable branding, packaging, and advertising,” the complaint said.
“The Hard Solo product is an extension of the soft drink brand, using the same brand colours, icon and font on the packaging and the same can shape as the Solo soft drink.”
There are no fines or penalties for breaches of the code.
Asahi subsidiary CUB Premium Beverages head of marketing, Hayden Turner, told The Herald that features including distinct black cans and prominent alcohol markings ensured it could not be confused with the iconic lemon squash drink.
Mr Turner added the product had received pre-vetting approval from ABAC.
While teenage drinking rates have declined over the last 15 years – more than-two thirds of those aged between 14 and 17 said they abstained from drinking alcohol in a 2019 survey – Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive Caterina Giorgi said alcohol companies were increasingly appealing to the youth market.
“This is one of the first [examples] that we’re aware of here in Australia,” Ms Giorgi told The Herald.
“It’s a taste and a product that people are familiar with, including young people, and so they’re really trying to cash in on that particular market.”
Blind taste tests of the new beverage on TikTok have drummed up thousands of views already, with many claiming they “can’t even taste the alcohol in here”.
“It’s quite concerning, if I was a kid and I just picked this up, I wouldn’t know the difference.”
Each 375ml can of Hard Solo contains 4.5 per cent alcohol content – or about 1.3 standard drinks.
The alcoholic component of the beverage is ethanol, which is the base of most RTDs and seltzers.