Distell to make changes after Savanna TV commercial ruling - even though 'no-alcohol' product is legal

16 August 2019 - 07:30 By Miranda Raaff
The Advertising Regulatory Board says a drink with less than 0.5% alcohol can be sold as non-alcoholic.
The Advertising Regulatory Board says a drink with less than 0.5% alcohol can be sold as non-alcoholic.
Image: 123rf/Oleg Evseev

Distell Limited, which appeared before the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) over its TV commercial for their new Savanna “non-alcoholic” drink, says their advertising is not misleading.

The advertising is in line with legislation, the company said - but it had nonetheless taken steps to advocate for responsible drinking.

It added it would not change it's strategy and had acted only on one finding by the ARB.

"We have acted on the one finding from the ARB ruling - that our television advert used the phrase 'no-alcohol'... The advert was corrected," Distell said in an email to TimesLIVE on Thursday. 

"For the rest, the Savanna brand is an unapologetically bold cider. We have launched and introduced the first non-alcoholic cider in the SA market and this innovative brand remains true to the master brands unapologetic tone," the company said.

It said its branding was not misleading and was in line with the provision of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectant Act, which required products with less than 0.5% alcohol content to be labelled as "non-alcoholic".

“Savanna Non-Alcoholic Lemon complies fully with South African legislation; it meets the criteria of a non-alcoholic product and it is labelled and advertised as such. We have proactively been very clear about the non-alcoholic product classification and traces of alcohol on our packaging in line with industry standards,” the company said.

The response comes after the ARB heard two complaints which were lodged against Distell for its TV commercial on the new cider. The advert showcases a new “non-alcoholic” cider, which in fact contains 0.3% alcohol.

In the commercial, two patrons react in a surprised way when a traffic officer in uniform rides into a bar on his official motorcycle. The officer orders and drinks what appears to be an alcoholic drink. He briefly looks at the two patrons and then rides off.

One patron comments: “That’s a bit unconventional”. The other responds, “Mm-hmm Savanna with no alcohol. Breaks all the rules.”

They glance over at a pilot dressed in uniform, sitting behind them also drinking from a bottle similar to theirs.

The words "not for persons under the age of 18” appear at the bottom of the screen throughout the commercial. In the final shot, the words "new non-alcoholic", "the rules don’t apply" and "Savanna, the unapologetic cider" appear on the screen.

In its decision, the ARB said it could not make a ruling that contradicted legislation, but requested that Distell remove or amend its advertising. 

Distell said it had noticed an increasing trend of consumer interest in their product and "as a good corporate citizen who advocates responsible drinking", it would be taking additional steps.

This will include making changes to its labels, and creating a series of educational social content pieces to explain what it means if a product is non-alcoholic.

“We have also implemented the Aware Code of Communication to reflect our firm commitment towards responsible and ethical conduct in how we advertise and communicate alcoholic products," it said.

"We will be launching a consumer campaign aimed at creating awareness and educating consumers on responsible drinking as well as product classifications.”

It said that as a producer of alcoholic beverages, it respected the right of adults to choose whether or not to consume alcohol in an acceptable and enjoyable way.  “We remain firm that alcohol should be consumed responsibly," said Distell. “When making this new product variant, we wanted to stay true to the dry and distinctive Savanna taste, and so chose a process of dealcoholisation, to reduce the alcohol volume to 0.3% and the result is a non-alcoholic cider with the same crisp taste.”  


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