Health-Oriented Marketing on Alcoholic Drinks: An Online Audit and Comparison of Nutrition Content of Australian Products
Marketing, label design, and product innovation strategies are being used by the alcohol industry to position some products as ‘healthier choices’. The aim of this study was to systematically document the content and prevalence of health-oriented marketing of alcohol products on the Australian market and to compare the online availability of nutrition information and the alcohol and nutrient content between products with and without such features.
Health-oriented marketing featured on all beer, cider, and ready-to-drink premixed drinks (RTDs), and selected wines on the website of the largest liquor retailer in Australia were audited using a systematic coding protocol. Nutrition information was sought from manufacturer/brand websites.
54% of beers, ciders, and RTDs featured health-oriented marketing, the most common forms being natural imagery or descriptors, or references to fruit ingredients. 21% of audited wines featured health-oriented marketing. The prevalence of specific features varies by product category. Online availability of nutrition information for alcohol products was poor (12% of beer, cider, and RTDs). Products with health-oriented marketing were lower in energy and alcohol content than those without but were still classed as full-strength alcohol on average.
Health-oriented marketing is prevalent in alcohol products sold in Australia. In the absence of universal and standardized health warning and energy content information on labels, permitted health-oriented marketing has the potential to mislead consumers about product healthiness or detract from the perceived harm associated with alcohol consumption. Research to test this proposition is now needed to guide labeling policy reform.