03 January 2024

Low and alcohol-free products have become increasingly popular with consumers, so the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) were keen to provide advertisers clarity on how these products should be marketed. Following a public consultation, CAP and BCAP issued a regulatory statement announcing new rules and guidance to the CAP Code and BCAP Code (together the “Codes”) on 14 November 2023 and these rules will come into force on 14 May 2024.

Previous concerns

Naturally, the volume of advertising alcohol alternatives have also expanded over the years. Although such products are considered non-alcoholic, their advertising often uses imagery indicative of alcohol and mentions drinking occasions. Therefore, CAP and BCAP seek to introduce rules so these products can be marketed responsibly and provide marketers with guidelines on whether an ad is likely to be subject to the rules covering alcohol alternatives.

Key changes

  1. Definitions – under the new rules, alcohol alternatives are non-alcoholic drinks at or under 0.5% ABV that are intended and marketed as alternatives to alcoholic drinks (such as non-alcoholic beer) used in contexts or circumstances where they would normally be consumed.
  2. ABV Limits – to avoid consumer confusion, all products marketed as alcohol alternatives must quote an ABV, even when that ABV is 0.0%.
  3. Cross-promotion and brand sharing – advertisements might, whether by accident or design, have the effect of promoting alcoholic drinks. Where the advert is for an alcohol alternative that shares the same brand as an alcoholic drink, the alcoholic rules will not apply to those brand references if the primary effect of the advert is to promote the alcohol alternative. The use of alcohol-related imagery without clarity about the alcohol-free nature of the product while referencing the shared brand name is likely to be treated as references to alcohol and subject to the alcohol rules.
  4. Unsafe circumstances and consumption habits – alcohol alternatives must be clearly and prominently labelled or stated so it is clear to consumers that the apparently unsafe or inappropriate consumption (such as drinking and driving) is acceptable because the product does not contain alcohol.
  5. Depictions of pregnancy – ads for alcohol alternatives must not state or imply such products should be consumed during pregnancy or when trying to conceive. However, where alcohol alternatives are at 0.0% ABV and contain no alcohol whatsoever, the Codes have been revised to permit ads for these products. Such depictions must be responsible, the nature of the product must be clear, and the ads must not appear to condone or encourage consumption of alcohol in these contexts.
  6. Targeting – marketers need to ensure ads for alcohol alternatives are not aimed at under-18s or be likely to appeal to them, especially through association with youth culture or showing adolescent or juvenile behaviour.

The new rules should be read in conjunction with the new guidance which will allow advertisers to understand how the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is likely to interpret the new rules, including examples of permitted activity and non-compliance.

Takeaways for advertisers

The new rules and guidance offer helpful clarity for a product sector which has seen significant growth in recent years. Manufacturers and retailers currently marketing alcohol alternatives, or looking to do so, should consider these new rules and guidelines carefully and ensure any ongoing or planned campaigns are in compliance with the new guidelines. This may include updating the advertising visuals and revising the overall messaging of the campaign. In particular, brands that produce both alcohol and alcohol alternatives should label their respective products suitably and provide appropriate protections to consumers.

How can we help?

If you’d like to discuss how new rules and guidelines may have an impact on your advertising campaigns or if you have any specific concerns about the new rules, please contact Richard Hugo or another member of Burges Salmon’s Commercial team.

This article was written by Noel Hung.

Key contact

Richard Hugo

Richard Hugo Director

  • Commercial
  • Intellectual Property and Media 
  • Retail

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