I warned everybody, and have been doing so for years, that if we allow plain packaging for products like tobacco then it wouldn’t be long before calls for plain packing came for other products, most notably alcohol and sugar.
Well, no one listened to me. Commenters on this blog also, rather po-facedly, stated that they didn’t mind on tobacco. Now there are calls for plain packaging of alcohol.
Alcohol watchdogs are concerned beer branding featuring cute cartoons or resembling softdrinks, may be too appealing to minors.
The rise of the craft beer market has resulted in a new wave of creative, colourful, and often cartoonish labels as alcohol producers compete for consumers’ attention.
Auckland craft brewery Behemoth Brewing Company, has “brave bikkie brown ale” featuring a cartoon monster eating a cookie on its bottles.
A mouse riding a dog appears on Scallywag rich amber ale from Auckland craft brewery Schipper’s Beer, while a badger wearing a jetpack stars on its Boffin bitter.
Even the Mac’s beer range, owned by major brewer Lion, features labels with drawings of wolves, a shark fin and an Indian Pale Ale called “birthday suit” with a grizzly beer holding a hop bud. And two months ago, the darling of the New Zealand craft beer scene, Garage Project, released a “Lola cheery cola beer” in a can with a striking resemblance to Coca-Cola.
But while this type of branding can be fun and exciting for adults, it can spell confusion for youngsters, said Rebecca Williams, director of the Alcohol Healthwatch group.
She said cartoons on alcohol labelling sent a message to minors that alcohol consumption should not be taken seriously, blurring the reality that it contained a toxin.
“Look at the colours of them – they’re cute, they’re quirky,” said Williams.
When children liked a brand or could relate to it, it translated into early alcohol consumption, she said.
“I think it’s about time somebody was challenged.”