The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that the ‘Beer The Beautiful Truth’ campaign, which highlights the addition of nutrition information panels to product packaging and labelling, is not misleading following a complaint. However, the ASA has partially upheld one element of the complaint, ruling that the Olympic gold medalist rower Eric Murray was a ‘hero of the young’ with special appeal to minors. Murray has since been removed from the campaign.
In its decision, the ASA says "the references to “nutrition”, “99% sugar-free” and the carbohydrates in the context of information about the content of beer and alongside other nutritional facts, including the calories on the website, did not create a misleading impression.” Complainants had claimed that the campaign created the impression that beer was “healthy and nutritious”, an assertion which was not upheld.
Dylan Firth, executive director of the Brewers Association of New Zealand, says the decision to include Eric Murray in the campaign was based on best available information at the time and undertaken after extensive consideration of our responsibilities under the code.
“This took into account the fact that Eric had never been a member of the teams specified in the guidelines to the code, and had retired from competitive rowing at the time our decision to feature him was made. However, we accept the ASA’s ruling on this aspect of the complaint. We have already taken steps to ensure that any campaign material featuring Eric has been removed from unrestricted areas.”
The Brewers Association of New Zealand and Assignment Group are on a mission to educate Kiwis about the nutritional content of beer with the help of beer-lovers Robbie Magasiva, Antonia Prebble, Eric Murray and Hollie Smith.
Featuring a dedicated website and a series of videos, the campaign draws attention to the introduction of nutrition information panels on many of the Brewers Association members’ beers. Alongside that information, Magasiva, Prebble, Murray and Smith each share anecdotes about when they like to enjoy a beer.
Prebble talks about having a drink after her family’s New Years games, while Murray opens up about his journey across the world to get to his wife who was in labour and the satisfaction of enjoying a celebratory beer.
As well as the videos, each of the celebrities have been photographed for still campaign ads and photographer Spid Pye says the set up was a fantastic opportunity to create a stunning series of portraits.
“My job was to capture their character with a simple composition, beautiful lighting, styling and in interesting locations, engaging them in the process.”
He adds the shoot was about allowing them to be themselves as the campaign is about real Kiwis telling real stories.
The addition of the nutrition information panels started in February last year with the launch of the ‘Beer the Beautiful Truth’ initiative and, to date, Brewers Association members, Lion and DB Breweries have added panels to the back of approximately 250 million bottles and cans.
The nutrition information panels carry information on sugar, calories, dietary fibre, protein and carbohydrate content. All products will continue to carry standard drinks labelling.
Executive director of the Brewers Association of New Zealand Dylan Firth says it has been a great summer for beer thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, and people may be happy to know that most of the beer they are drinking is actually 99 percent sugar-free and preservative free.
“Research has shown that there are a number of misperceptions about what is in beer, particularly around sugar content and preservatives. This campaign is about providing people with nutritional information so they can make informed decisions about what they drink.”
He adds that with New Zealanders consuming an average of 37 teaspoons of added sugar every day – six times the World Health Organisation's recommendation – it sees it as important that consumers who are choosing to have a beer are armed with the information they need to make informed choices.
A campaign to bring to life the nutritional content of beer follows an effort by Speight’s towards the end of last year to promote its new Speight’s Summit Ultra Low Carb beer.
It released a campaign via DDB that watches the fitness struggles of a regular Kiwi bloke. His reward for the hard work is one of the beers – a scene designed to portray the drink as a reward Kiwi men can enjoy, with less of the guilt.
About the campaign, category manager of beer at Lion Ben Wheeler said the beer has 75 percent fewer carbs than the traditional brew.
But is beer, in general, a great reward? The nutrition information panels added to bottles and cans label the beverages as 99 percent sugar-free and many have been quick to question the intention of the label and whether or not it creates a perception that drinking alcohol is healthy.
“That's a pretty nonsensical statement, although it's technically true, of course,” said editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide Niki Bezzant, when responding to the use of "99 percent sugar-free". Her New Zealand Herald article, pointed out that it’s the alcohol in beer that causes weight gain, not the sugar and carbs.
“Alcohol has nearly twice the energy of sugar: one gram of alcohol provides seven calories (29kJ) compared to one gram of sugar with four calories (17kJ).
“And alcohol is the thing that's the toxin, strongly linked with increased risk for six types of cancer and responsible for over 600 deaths a year in New Zealand,” she said.
When questioned about the campaign divulging information about beer causing harm, Firth told Newshub: "I wouldn't say that beer's a health food and we're not trying to educate people into that, we're just trying to give them the information."
Of course, there is a long history of FMCG companies stretching the truth or being very selective in an effort to attract/confuse consumers. And, in an article in The Conversation, Brandon McFadden wrote about the rise of fake transperancy and the absurdity of some labelling.
"While some labels provide useful information that is not readily detectable by consumers, others contain misleading claims that exploit a knowledge gap with consumers and take advantage of their willingness to pay a premium for so-called process labels. For example, details on a product’s country of origin are helpful; labeling a bottle of water “gluten free” and “non-GMO” much less so."
And while the big beer brands are in on the act for this campaign, it has earned the ire of some in the craft brewing community. As an article on Newsroom said: "Much to the association's surprise, the campaign has infuriated the growing flock of independent brewers who found out about [Beer the Beautiful Truth] in an email offering them the chance to take part the day before the launch. Soon after the announcement, social media was awash with outrage as brewers attacked their keyboards. BTBT was likened to a "stealth bombing" attack, described as sneaky with claims the true aim was to turn public opinion against craft beers whose labels were void of the information about sugar."
Agency: Assignment Group
Production: Waitemata Films
Director: Mike Oldershaw
Photographers: Spid Pye
Client: The Brewers Association of New Zealand