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SAB ordered to remove misleading labelling from Brutal Fruit products

The High Court of South Africa has interdicted and restrained the SA Breweries (SAB) from distributing, marketing or selling two Brutal Fruit Spritzer variants with non-compliant labelling and advertising.

The SAB products affected by the order include Brutal Fruit Ruby Apple Spritzer and Brutal Fruit Strawberry Rouge Spritzer.

Earlier this year, Distell lodged a formal complaint to South Africa’s Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) in respect of the Brutal Fruit Apple Spritzer product, given that it was labelled, advertised and promoted in a way that represented itself as an alcoholic fruit beverage.

As the beverage is maize-based, Distell said it should be labelled as an ‘ale’ instead of an ‘alcoholic fruit blend’. 

Distell contended 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.

Distell said that Brutal Fruit Sparkling Ruby Apple Spritzer is not alcoholic fermentation of fruit juice, but rather beer which has been flavoured with a small percentage of fruit juice.

Misleading consumers

The ARB ruling on 27 August 2020 found that the two Brutal Fruit ready-to-drink (RTD) products, which are popular with younger female consumers, have been promoted by SAB in ‘a way that is misleading consumers’.

The High Court Order was made on 10 December 2020 in the Western Cape, and restricts the use of labels that convey the Brutal Fruit products as ‘alcoholic fruit beverages’. It should rather be correctly labelled as ‘ales’ (in line with the Liquor Products Act, 60 of 1989). 

Therefore, SAB has to stop using the non-compliant labels on or before 18 December 2020, and must with immediate effect remove or withdraw all marketing and advertising in respect of the Brutal Fruit products.

This advertising includes all television, radio, billboards, websites, social media, press, print media and in-store advertising and promotional materials in their immediate control. 

Distell commented: “We are pleased at the outcome of this matter. These Brutal Fruit RTD products have been promoted in a way that is misleading consumers.

“This also disadvantages local competitors which produce and sell authentic ‘alcoholic fruit beverages’.

“The company believes in strong and healthy competition to support consumer choice, balanced with transparency about what’s inside their drink to build trust and ultimately brand equity.”