(Brutal Fruit)
  • Distell challenged its competitor SAB about its labeling of Brutal Fruit Sparkling Ruby Apple Spritzer.
  • SAB has agreed to replace “alcoholic fruit blend” with "ale" - but only by mid-December, due to the disruption of the second alcohol ban.
  • This was not good enough for SA's advertising watchdog.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

SA Breweries has until end-November to change the labels on its Brutal Fruit Sparkling Ruby Apple Spritzer product, SA’s advertising watchdog ruled.

Its competitor Distell challenged SAB about the wording on its labels – saying that it is simply an “apple flavoured beer”, not an “alcoholic fruit blend” as is claimed:

Brutal Fruit Ruby Apple Spritzer's current label. Photo: ARB

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Distell contends that SAB can’t use “alcohol fruit blend” on the labels as it too closely resembled “alcoholic fruit beverage”, which according to the law must be produced by the alcoholic fermentation of fruit juice. An “alcoholic apple beverage” – which can also be a called cider - can only be produced by the alcoholic fermentation of apple juice (or with the addition of up to 25% pear juice or alcoholic pear beverage).

Distell says that the Brutal Fruit Sparkling Ruby Apple Spritzer is not alcoholic fermentation of fruit juice, but rather beer which has been flavoured with 6% apple juice.

SAB fought back, saying that the label was not misleading and described the product: which is ruby coloured, sparkling, alcoholic and contains 6% reconstituted apple juice.

However, at the end of June, it undertook to Distell to scrap the phrase “alcoholic fruit blend” and include the word "ale" by September 2020.

But that was before the second alcohol ban, announced mid-July. Given that it now had to contend with more unsold stock and labels, SAB said it would only be able to adopt the new labels by December 18th – four months after the lifting of the ban in August. (And assuming that there won’t be any further bans on alcohol sales.)

READ | You may want to check the expiry date on that beer before you pay 

Distell then turned to the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB), to force SAB to adopt the new labels earlier.

SAB said that this was “an unnecessarily aggressive approach”, and that there wasn’t that much urgency given that the product has been on the market since 2018, without any complaints.

While the ARB was satisfied with SAB’s approach to change the labels, it found that December 18th would be too late – given that it would by then be nearly six months after it initially undertook to implement the changes. 

“The only motivation offered by the Advertiser was that the product has not attracted any other complaints despite being in trade for more than 18 months, that it was caught offguard by the most recent ban on alcohol sales, and that it was unwilling to destroy labels currently in its possession,” the ARB found.

It ruled that the new labels should be adopted by November 28th – three months after its ruling, and that its members are advised to not accept the current packaging and labelling after that date.

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