Coco-cola which has added to the growing non-communicable disease (NCD) burden in the world with their high sugar beverages is now adding even more fuel to the NCD tsunami by aggressively pursuing alcohol business. The company has already launched Topo Chico hard seltzer with 4.7% alcohol (stronger than an average beer) in the USA. Before that the corporate giant launched three alcopops in Japan in May 2018 and a range of premium mixers in UK in 2019. The company has been pursuing the wine business since the 1970s.
Now, the multinational giant has launched Topo Chico hard seltzer in the UK. This beverage is actually an alcopop masquerading as something healthier. It’s marketed as “alcoholic sparkling water” and comes in fruity flavors.
Coca Cola’s move into Big Alcohol is now obvious. It is aimed at exploiting its younger customers. These “hard seltzers” with their fruity flavours and promotion of low calories are a cynical strategy by the alcohol industry to turn young people into alcohol consumers,” said Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International.
These are clearly aimed at younger people who are more health conscious and have not developed a taste or liking for alcohol. Coca Cola as a corporate giant deploys a massive marketing machinery and will be pushing more addictive products into young people’s lives.”Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International
Coca Cola’s move into the alcohol business seeks to reduce its reliance on their core sugary brands, as sales of these have plummeted in recent years. But the risk of increased alcohol consumption and damage to people’s health and well-being is of no concern.
Topo Chico has originally been a sparkling water brand. It is extremely popular in Mexico. By using an existing, well-loved brand Coca Cola is planning to use the build up market, brand recognition and loyalty that the sparkling water enjoys for their new alcohol product.
This is a disingenuous attempt to reinvent the alcopops of the 1990s,” said Dr. Tony Rao, an expert on alcohol addiction and a visiting researcher at King’s College London, as per Daily Mail UK.
It has the name of a sparkling mineral water brand, but has stronger alcohol content than many cans of beer.”Dr. Tony Rao, expert on alcohol addiction, visiting researcher at King’s College London
Coca-Cola’s push into the alcohol business is clearly fueled by profit maximization interests. Their global net operating revenues have fallen by over £8 billion since 2012, as high sugar drinks were required to display health warnings. The company is trying to protect its profit interest by cashing in on the growing hard seltzer product category. Hard seltzers are alcohol products marketed as fruit infused mineral water with alcohol, uncannily resembling alcopops just with less sugar. The market for hard seltzer is already worth £2.8 billion per year in the USA.
These products are also often colorful making for attractive photos on social media feeds.
Coca-Cola is claiming that they have worked to make their marketing not appeal to underage youth and that they “champion responsible drinking”. Despite their claims, these hard seltzers are designed, considering taste, product, and advertising to appeal to the youth demographic.
The concept of “responsible” alcohol consumption itself is deeply problematic:
- It places the entire responsibility for any alcohol harm on consumers.
- It therefore adds to stigma around alcohol use problems and fuels discrimination of people who experience such problems.
- It also implies that there is “responsible” and “healthy” or “normal” alcohol use – which has been disproven by independent science, for instance considering that there is no safe amount of alcohol use for cancer risk, for risk to the unborn child during pregnancy, or the risk to others when alcohol users drive under the influence of alcohol.
Alcohol is harmful to public health and safety. It is addictive and carcinogenic and the industry which produces, markets and profits from alcohol products cannot escape responsibility for creating alcogenic societies with a pervasive alcohol norm that pressures people into alcohol use and that disregards and misleads about alcohol’s real effects.
Alcopops to hard seltzer: Big Alcohol’s marketing tactics
Alcopops are high sugar alcoholic beverages, specifically marketed to younger people. Their popularity grew in the 1990s. Big Alcohol has previously been accused of driving underaged alcohol use with these alcopops which are very attractive and affordable to teenagers. Research has called for banning or strictly restricting these alcopops because of the harm they expose children and youth to. Many countries imposed high taxes on these products leading to an increase in price and therefore a decrease in consumption and overall popularity among younger people.
Since alcopops were exposed for their harm, the alcohol industry moved to a different marketing strategy. Promoting “healthy” options for alcohol products. While this claim is obviously factually wrong, the marketing pivot was able to attract younger demographics who were more health conscious. Experts have called the “wellness” alcohol trend nonsense. Nevertheless, Big Alcohol continues to use health specific marketing and taglines to promote some of their brands. Hard seltzer is one such alcoholic product which is advertised as “low in calories”, “gluten free”, “vegan”. By marketing alcohol with these healthy lifestyle attributes the alcohol industry is engaging in other unethical business practices:
- Attempting to pass off alcohol as healthy.
- Disguising alcohol’s true harm.
- Targeting youth.
We cannot leave our nation’s health in the hands of alcohol producers, who will always put profits first,” said Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, as per Daily Mail UK.Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chairman, Alcohol Health Alliance UK