a few words on truth in beer advertising

When it comes to beer there are other truths I’m much more interested in than a kilojoule count

The ‘Beer the Beautiful Truth’ campaign by Lion Nathan has been kicking around for a few months and up until now I haven’t commented much on it.

For those who’ve not seen it, the advertising campaign is coupled with nutritional information on Lion Nathan’s beer brands. It’s not part of any government requirements on labelling but instead a voluntary move that Lion claims is a response to consumer demands for nutritional information when it comes to the beer we drink.

Read: Beer, the Beautiful Truth campaign details via Australian Brews News article – Beer the Beautiful Truth Campaign has it’s risks: Lion


When I first caught wind of this campaign I screwed up my nose. I didn’t, and still don’t, like the new labelling on Little Creatures, the additional panel looks just that – additional – and I find it distracting from the old oval shaped label. Admittedly it’s a very minor detail and given the addition of a nutrition panel I guess there wasn’t much in the way of options. But more importantly I don’t really care about the nutritional information of the beer I’m drinking so this campaign does zero for me. This aside, I thought to myself, who I am to judge? Perhaps consumers ARE crying out for this sort of information, I don’t know, clearly I’m not the target market for this particular campaign so maybe I shouldn’t go on a rant.

Fast forward a couple of months and well I can’t help myself.

a few words on beer and advertising …

Beer advertising doesn’t exactly have a history of truth telling, its been predominantly about middle aged overweight men trying to find ways to get away from their wives or looking super cool to get pretty women to sleep with them. It’s been about men doing manly things and this narrative hasn’t changed much despite a big truth that yes, indeed, women also drink beer. Advertising of any kind isn’t really rooted in truth and honesty so why should we take this particular beer advertising has pure 100% truth?

The Source …

It goes without saying that Lion Nathan want you, me, everyone to drink more beer – in particular their brands of beer.

The ad campaign alone implies, at least to me, that their beers are preservative free and sugar free. This in turn implies that everyone else’s beers are not. Digging around the website I found they do acknowledge that “many beers sold in pubs and bottle shops today are preservative free” but the campaign’s main advertisements aren’t going out of their way to acknowledge this.

On the subject of sources, it’s probably worth mentioning that given I don’t really like this campaign then my own writings on it are inherently biased!

A Fad …

It’s really hard not to view this whole thing as a play for the current “sugar is bad” trend. Much like the claims of “zero fat” or “99% fat free” it doesn’t mean that the product is any good for you. I’m sure broken glass is 99% fat free but you don’t see me having a bowl of it for breakfast.

A great article on AdNews called ‘Booze Ads go Sour’ elaborates on this much better than I could, here’s a little excerpt –

Obesity Policy Coalition executive manager Jane Martin said Lion were deliberately “capitalising” on the concern around sugar, and labelling beer as 99.9% sugar-free “only tells part of the story.”

“The nutrition panel doesn’t show you where the energy is coming from because alcohol isn’t listed. It’s the alcohol that contains the kilojoules.”

“It’s like saying marshmallows are 99.9% fat free. The messaging is making the products appear healthier than they are,” she said.

We have seen this before with the boom of low carb beers a few years ago. Remember Pure Blonde? I remember when it was one of the biggest selling beers at the pub I used to work at, nowadays I see it less and less. Sure, Pure Blonde is making/trying to make a comeback but their own advertising is questionable as fellow Australian beer blogger ‘Beer is Your Friend’ highlights wonderfully in his post ‘The Pure Blonde Ad I hate’. Low carb was a thing, now zero sugar is a thing, then something else will be.

Trying to be healthy …

Consume less alcohol or none at all. I’m no health expert but surely it’s the BOOZE that is bad for you. Below is a great read from 2010 which addresses a lot of beer and health myths and misconceptions. Granted it’s longer than looking at a 30 second television spot but I found it full of good information.

Read: Australian Brews News – Beer Lovers’ Guide to Good Health

As with all alcoholic drinks, the primary focus should be in the effects of alcohol on the body first rather than carbohydrates or other component.

[Excerpt from Beer Lovers’ Guide to Good Health article]

I drink beer, Here is the truth I’d like …

I drink a lot of beer and I can say with a great deal of certainty that I don’t care about nutritional information on the label. I’ve never looked at a label and thought “gee, I wonder how many calories are in this?” but you know what I have thought – “who brews this beer?”, “where is this brewed?” and “who owns this beer?” This goes for draught beers as well, not just bottles and cans.

I can’t be alone on this – take Beck’s for instance, who’s parent company AB InBev recently got pinged in a law suit for misleading their consumers into thinking that all Beck’s beer is produced in Germany.

Read: Beck’s beer settlement includes payouts for up to 1.7m US households

Sure, they included it’s US production on the packaging but from what I have read you really had to go looking for that information in order to find it. What was more prominent were words and symbols implying it was brewed in Germany. Where is the truth in that sort of labelling?

A little closer to home where last year the ACCC, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, fined Carlton United Breweries for misleading consumers with their Byron Bay Lager, a beer that was brewed more than 700km away in Sydney.

Read: ABC News – Byron Bay beer label not-so-fine

Further interesting reading on Australian Brews News on the Cole’s brand ‘Steamrail’ that, prior to the Bryon Bay Lager incident, didn’t mention anything about who was behind Steamrail beers.

Read: Australian Brews News – Who is Steamrail Brewing?

More beer labels followed suit and changed their labels to put a little more honesty about where the beer was brewed.

Read: Australian Brews News – Beers change beer labels to appease ACCC

By no means am I saying that beer brewed for Coles is rubbish or that brewing under contract is bad, what I do believe is that it’s relevant information for consumers and they are intelligent enough to do with that information whatever they like.

I am clearly not the target market for the Beer, the Beautiful Truth advertising campaign. I’ll accept that some people do want nutritional information on their beers, though I’d be interested to see if any other alcoholic beverage follows these footsteps, but I think when it comes to beer there are other truths I’m much more interested in than a kilojoule count.

Weekend Reading #9

This weeks edition of Weekend Reading is a little delayed for no reason other than forgetfulness – forgetting to post that is, not forgetting to read. So, under the ever faithful guise of “better late than never” here is this week’s reading material for you.

I love lounging in bed on weekends and catching up on all my favourite beery reading. From blogs to articles from the American craft beer scene and the best local beer news, there’s excellent reading material out there so every Friday I’m posting a list of the articles and blogs that have excited me.

This weeks edition of Weekend Reading is a little delayed for no reason other than forgetfulness – forgetting to post that is, not forgetting to read. So, under the ever faithful guise of “better late than never” here is this week’s reading material for you.

Philly.com | Over-hyped and over-hopped, craft brewing needs some fresh strategies

I found this article link on beer blog Beer is Your Friend. Us funny little beer geeks get so caught up in the latest brew with the craziest additions with arguably so much boundary pushing that we potentially push away other beer drinkers. I’m not saying these beers are bad or shouldn’t be around, I’m always on board for a little crazy, but shouldn’t we be getting just as excited about a smooth and well balanced porter as we do about a juniper berry infused scotch ale aged on ex-shiraz barrel wood chips?

The idea of craft breweries doing mass marketing advertising was really interesting to me. In a world of Untappd badges and #instabeer hashtaging where does an ad on the telly fit in?

Since craft breweries are operated almost exclusively by white males, this marketing approach helps explain why the vast majority of craft beer’s audience is white and male.

If craft beer is to reach its stated goal of 20-percent market share, it needs to connect with women and minorities. It needs to cast a wider net, and the most efficient way to do that is paid, mass-media advertising.

Now I’ll admit that I have loved some of the advertising for Carlton Draught, their Big Ad was fantastic, I think I even chose it to study for a university assignment. But it doesn’t make me want to have a pint of the stuff however the fact I still remember the ad and know the brand must say something for the campaign. I think Coopers is the one craft beer, and no I don’t care to argue the definition of craft, I see continuously advertising in the mass media area – bus shelters, billboards, magazines. Maybe it’s time for other craft brewers to get on board, even as a collective or handful, to recruit more to our wonderful world.

Coopers Best Extra Stout I've been seeing these at bus stops recently
Coopers Best Extra Stout
I’ve been seeing these a lot at bus stops recently
Canadian Club "over beer" campaign
Canadian Club “over beer” campaign Image from adnews.com.au
Coopers sends their reply to Canadian Club
Coopers sends their reply to Canadian Club
You can check out the full story here at the adnews website

Boston Globe | Monks in Spencer launch brewery

When the next Mane Liquor Beer Quiz night is held and the question is asked, “How many Trappist breweries exist?” you will be glad you read this article. This year the Spencer Brewery in the United States was added as one of the very few authentic Trappist breweries in the world and the only one on the US, most are in Belgium.

Money.com | 5 beer trends you’ll be seeing this summer

GABS: The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular

People are always saying that the Australian craft beer scene follows the United States but (insert subjective number here) years later. Whether this article gives a look into what we can expect soon I don’t know. Judging from this years GABS festival the sour beer love affair has already started but as to whether we would see a craft beer hotel or Trappist brewery here in Oz, well who knows?!

Marketing Magazine | Blogs: Small brands, big impact: why craft beer is top of the hops

This article is a little dated now, published just over a year ago, but even so it is still an interesting read. I think the “big boys”, aka Lion Nathan and CUB, very much understand the importance of connecting the brand with a story, a history that consumers can resonate with. That’s why you’ve got James Squire talking about, well, James Squire and the stories behind the beer names like 150 Lashes and Four Wives.

Maybe the difference is the smaller craft brewers have their brewer/s, who are sometimes also the owner/s, at every event. They are pouring beers at the beer festivals, talking to customers at the pub during ‘meet the brewer’ sessions and who may even be delivering the kegs to the bar. All this brings a connection between brewer-brewery-drinker that is extremely difficult to create in an ad.