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Study warns Aussie consumers to beware of alcohol marketed as ‘healthy’

Companies in Australia are labelling their booze as ‘pure’, ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ and ‘sugar-free’ to make them more appealing to a health-conscious demographic, according to research from Curtin University.

The research paper, which was published in the journal Public Health Research and Practice, shows that companies are zeroing in on our desire for healthier products.

Australians, especially young Australians, are growing increasingly health conscious. Alcohol manufacturers have recognised this and are working on ways to make their product more appealing to their audience.

The study looked at key trends by examining new product innovations and trade publications from the last two years that highlight executives’ ideas about what is and isn’t working within the industry.

Ms Julia Stafford, Executive Officer of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth based at Curtin University and co-author of the paper, commented on a trend in a media release.

“In recent years, we’ve seen the development of supposedly healthier products in most alcohol categories, including products such as low carb beers, low calorie wines, and low sugar and gluten free ready-to-drink alcohol products.”

Undeterred by the challenge of selling an essentially unhealthy product to a health-aware audience, Stafford says the industry saw it as an opportunity.

“Alcohol companies promoted their ‘better-for-you’ products as supposedly healthier through advertising campaigns and product developments.”

Unfortunately for consumers, the “healthy” labels can be misleading. Stafford highlights the issue, saying, “these products are not healthy and still carry all the risks associated with the alcohol component of the products, based on the volume of alcohol they contain and the associated calories.”

Ms Danica Keric, also from the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and co-author of the paper, shares Stafford’s concern over the implications misleading marketing can have on consumers. She highlights that public health experts recommend alcohol promotion and marketing reforms “that include strong, independent, legislated controls on all forms of alcohol marketing and promotion, and prescribe permitted alcohol marketing content.”

She also suggested the introduction of “evidence-based health warning labels” to ensure that consumers are completely aware of the risks associated with any alcohol consumption, even when it’s labelled as “natural” and “sugar-free”.

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