Alcopops will come in smaller cans and taste a little less
potent this summer as the liquor industry responds to
government demands to set limits on the strength of RTDs.
When alcohol reforms passed into law a year ago, the industry
was told to introduce a voluntary code for selling the
sugary, spirit-based drinks or the Government would consider
Manufacturers have now drawn up a set of rules, which include
a maximum strength of 7% alcohol or two standard drinks per
bottle or can.
Because companies had to stop producing drinks stronger than
this in September, stocks are likely to be exhausted by this
month or February.
The new limits affected half the RTDs sold in New Zealand and
required manufacturers to change their containers and
''There were some extensive costs,'' Distillers Association
head Robert Brewer said.
''But at the end of the day, it was agreed that this was
The code has been signed off by liquor industry giants
Bacardi, Diageo, Independent Liquor and others, and the
changes will affect popular products such as Woodstock
Bourbon and Jim Beam. Under the new limits, a 440ml can of
Woodstock Bourbon will shrink to 430ml and its alcohol level
will fall from 8% to 6%.
The code also set limits on the amount of caffeine, required
labels to clearly display the number of standard drinks in a
can, and banned advertising which appealed to minors.
The alcohol limits in the code are more lenient than those
originally suggested by the Government. Alcohol law reforms
initially gave the Government power to ban RTDs stronger than
5% or 1.5 standard drinks. Justice Minister Judith Collins
later raised this limit to 6% before scrapping the provision
in favour of an industry-led code. The debate occurred before
last month's controversy over alcohol sachets which contain a
single shot of a flavoured alcopop with 20% or more alcohol
content. The products, branded Cheeky and Sneaky, are the
cheapest single drink on sale, at just $2.
Police, alcohol action groups and event organisers have
labelled the products ''disturbing'' amidst fears they will
be used to top up drinks in bars, be smuggled into venues or
used to spike drinks.
The voluntary code targeted RTDs because they were believed
to be associated with harmful drinking, in particular among
young women. The industry disputed this, and research it
commissioned showed that men aged over 40 were the biggest
consumers of high-strength alcopops. The research also said
that if high-strength alcopops were banned, consumers would
move to even stronger, self-mixed drinks.
The stricter rules come as RTD sales begin to drop.
Industry representatives said the consumption of RTDs, which
once claimed about 15% of the alcohol market share, was
Mr Brewer said cider sales were massively increasing, in
particular among the demographic which consumed RTDs.
''Cider as a category is going gangbusters.''