The advertisement for Actual vodka seltzer.
The advertisement for Actual vodka seltzer.

Why this ‘vegan’ vodka drink has been labelled a con

A new "vegan" vodka drink designed to look healthy and targeted at young instagrammers and wellness warriors has been labelled a con by health experts and parent groups.

Packaged in pastel shades, Carlton and United Breweries "vegan, hard seltzer" was branded as healthy - with the emphasis on sparkling water - but, in reality, was anything but, they said.

Containing 4.2 per cent alcohol per 300ml can, the recently released Actual seltzer was as toxic as any other stiff vodka and soda drink mixed at home or in a bar, Deakin University addiction studies expert Professor Peter Miller said.

"Alcohol is a drug, it's a poison, and if you have too much of it, it poisons your body, not just on one occasion, but over time … so this is great marketing … this is 'health washing'," he said.

The advertisement for Actual vodka seltzer.
The advertisement for Actual vodka seltzer.

Melbourne University criminology expert Associate Professor John Fitzgerald said marketing the drink as healthy was a con as there were lots of calories in all alcohol and research showed "unhealthy alcohol consumption leads to unhealthy eating ­habits".

Carlton and United Breweries announced the launch of the drink last month, with the slogan "good is simple".

"Actual Vodka Seltzer is one of the lowest-calorie, ready-to-drink vodka (drinks) on the Australian market and is made with 100 per cent natural ingredients to a vegan recipe," it spruiked.

Marketing manager Marc Lord said the company had commissioned research which showed younger consumers were becoming increasingly health conscious, and the drink was targeted at that market.

"The hard seltzer market grew from nothing to become a multibillion-dollar business in just five years in the United States. This is the next big thing here in Australia, and that's why Carlton and United Breweries created Actual," he said.

Family lobby group Parents' Voice said the drink resembled a slimline can of mineral water, and its branding was clearly targeted at "Instagram shots and social media marketing".

The look of the drink would appeal to many teenage girls who were weight conscious and keen to impress on social media, which was a worry for families, Parents' Voice manager Alice Pryor said.

"There's a whole movement into positioning alcohol brands as being healthy … which effectively lowers the barriers for children to take up drinking," she said.

"You can really see it fitting with all that fitspo stuff, the way it's designed and the things they've chosen to put on the front - it looks just like a mineral water."

Mr Lord said research had also shown people wanted "transparency" in the drinks they consumed, which was why the ingredients in Actual were listed on the front of the can.


Originally published as Why this 'vegan' vodka drink has been labelled a con