Alcoholic soft drink Hard Solo will undergo a rebranding to Hard Rated after less than a dozen complaints were made to the marketing regulator.
Carlton & United Breweries said on Thursday the ready-to-drink alcoholic lemon beverage would undergo a re-branding after a decision by the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme (ABAC).
The Asahi-owned company said they had pre-vetted the name with ABAC and it was considered appropriate but they have since changed their decision and ruled it breached the code as it had ‘strong or evident appeal to minors’.
The decision was based on 10 complaints the ABAC received over the drink’s packaging and a promotional TikTok post.
One complaint said the drink looks like the soft drink Solo which is ‘consumed by minors’.
‘It’s hard to think why they would think that this is OK in 2023,’ the complaint said.
It also noted that the name ‘sounds a bit like Han Solo, which is a Star Wars character’.
Another woman complained: ‘My kids drink Solo and now you want them to drink a booze filled version? What’s next? ‘Hard’ Mount Franklin? This should be stopped.’
A third said the drink was ‘dangerous’ and would ‘exacerbate the teen drinking problem we have in Australia.’
Hard Solo will be re-branded to Hard Rated after complaints were made to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code
A Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) spokesperson said the company was disappointed by the decision but respected the work of ABAC in regulating alcohol marketing.
The spokesperson said: ‘As we comply with the ABAC decision and the Hard Solo brand exits the market, we’d like to assure the many Australian adults who have loved Hard Solo that the taste won’t change when the name changes to Hard Rated.’
‘Consistent with ABAC rules, CUB will ensure the last Hard Solo can packaging will exit our supply network by no later than 9 February 2024.’
The brewer added that Hard Solo tap decals in pubs and clubs will also have transitioned to Hard Rated by that date.
The rebranding controversy sparked backlash on social media.
One X user said ‘the nanny state strikes again’ and described the change as ‘pathetic’.
Another user asked how it was different to rum and coke and said it was ‘nonsense’ people would be confused between the two products.
A third slammed complainants as ‘whining’ and pointed out ‘it’s not sold in supermarkets or corner stores to kids.’
However one user argued that the packaging had indeed caught the eye of their primary school aged nephew who had asked for one.
The debate around the drink gained traction after a Teal MP demanded it be banned, which then backfired and caused the product to sell out at Dan Murphy’s and BWS.
Member for North Sydney, Kylea Tink, met with alcohol industry figures in August after telling the media they would be pushing limits on advertising and even bans of the product.
Part of the reason she wanted it banned was because it ‘tastes just like the soft drink’ and ‘not like alcohol’.
Sales had already been strong off the back of nostalgia for old advertisements of the iconic drink.
Popularity has been helped by nostalgia for the 1980s and 90s advertising campaign (above) with its slogan ‘light on the fizz so you can slam it down fast’
Teals MP Kylea Tink (pictured) led a push against the drink’s controversial branding
Reviews of the drink on Dan Murphy’s website are also favourable, with many also commenting the drink tastes just like the soft drink.
One reviewer said Hard Solo tastes almost identical to a normal Solo but with ‘a very slight aftertaste of alcohol’.
‘Growing up on solo I was keen to try this one, it tastes like solo only with the extra buzz you get from it being alcoholic, unreal.’
Several bottle shops confirmed ‘Hard Solo’ had sold out in August and September on the back of publicity.
‘There would be the odd four pack around, but it’s completely sold out for us,’ one said. ‘I had one bloke buy a case after hearing talk on the radio they wanted to ban it.’