Wine, beer and spirits groups plan to use age-restriction labels

Drinks groups from Beam Suntory to AB InBev will add age restriction labels to beer, wine and spirits in an effort to curb underage drinking.

(Photo: iStock)

Symbols or written age restrictions will be added to labels on alcoholic drinks produced by 12 of the world’s leading drinks companies as part of their membership of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD).

Its members include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Asahi, Bacardi, Beam Suntory; Brown- Forman, Carlsberg; Diageo, Heineken, Kirin Holdings, Molson Coors, Pernod Ricard, and William Grant and Sons.

The labels will be displayed on all products worldwide by 2024, according to a statement from the group.

This is the latest project the IARD is carrying out to prevent anyone under the legal drinking age of their country of residence from buying and consuming alcoholic drinks.

Including age-restrictions, the IARD has outlined a number of initiatives Albert Baladi, the CEO of Beam Suntory, said shows the groups’ commitment to “eliminate underage drinking in every community.”

Underage drinking is in decline, according to recent figures. A survey carried out at the end of last year in the US found that fewer American teens are consuming alcohol underage than ever before, however, the longer-term declines noted over the past few decades have levelled off.

“Although underage drinking has fallen in many parts of the world, this trend is not universal,” Baladi said.

“We want to accelerate progress and work with others to eliminate underage drinking in every community through a whole-of-society approach.

“We call on other producers to join us. We call on retailers to work with us to do more to prevent minors from buying alcohol in stores and online. And we call on parents and other adults to support us by not buying alcohol for, or sharing alcohol with, children and minors, even if they do this with good intentions.

“Together, we must ensure everyone reinforces the message that underage drinking is socially unacceptable.”

The problem with advertising

While age restriction symbols could curb underage drinking, advertising is one area brands are still grappling with.

A study by the University of Stirling and Cancer Research recently found that young people’s awareness of alcohol marketing – and their ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise – is associated with increased and higher-risk consumption.

The IARD also pledges to never market alcohol-free extensions of alcohol brands to minors, implement “rigorous online safeguards” to prevent minors from seeing or interacting with brands online, work with retailers to improve age verification policies in-store, and put pressure on online retailers, postal services, and delivery companies to join us in “developing global standards for the online sale and delivery of alcohol.”

But online alcohol advertising is rife with pitfalls. If a drinks group like Diageo pays a celebrity to promote a vodka brand via an Instagram post, for example, the group needs to consider how many of that celebrity’s followers are below the legal drinking age. Any individuals that feature in alcohol ads must be 25 years of age or over, and look it.

Last year, The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK (ASA) deemed that two ads for Heineken on model, Youtuber and Instagram influencer Tanya Burr’s Instagram page were acceptable because less than 25% of her audience were under the age of 18.

However, some of these groups have still come under fire over their use of social media. Advertising watchdogs ind alcohol charities have pointed out that children could easily be exposed to booze brand on apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, due to their unreliable age-gating policies.

Between June 2017 and March 2018, an investigation from truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) catalogued more than 100 instances in which artist DJ Khaled posted Snapchat stories promoting various alcoholic drinks — including Diageo’s Ciroc vodka, Bacardi’s D’Usse cognac, and Sovereign Brands’ Belaire sparkling wines and Bumbu rum — to more than 6 million Snapchat followers, many of whom are under the age of 21.

The Captain Morgan advert was banned over its appeal to children (Photo: Diageo/Snapchat)

In response to the DJ Khaled findings, Diageo said it was “committed to complying with all laws and regulations, including the FTC’s endorsement disclosure guidelines, as well as our rigorous marketing code and policies.”

The ASA also banned a Snapchat filter promoting Captain Morgan rum in 2018, ruling it could appeal to under 18s. Diageo argued that the advert was both historically accurate and consistent with the rum maker’s trade mark, adding that the Captain Morgan lens used “age-gated targeting” to ensure that the lens was only delivered to users over the legal drinking age. However, Snapchat only need to be at least 13 to own an account, and recent Ofcom report found that a significant amount of users may be far younger.

 

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