Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) will rename Hard Solo to Hard Rated, following a decision by the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Scheme.

Though the packaging for Hard Solo originally passed the ABAC pre-vetting process, the final decision was made that the packaging breached Part 3(b)(i) of the Code by having strong or evident appeal to minors.

Though disappointed by the decision, CUB are complying with the ruling and have ceased further orders for Hard Solo.

A CUB spokesperson said: “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 (s4.17. of the ABAC Code). Additionally, Hard Solo tap decals in pubs and clubs will also have transitioned to Hard Rated by that date. Importantly, the preparation to transition from Hard Solo to Hard Rated has commenced to minimise potential disruption of our Alcoholic Lemon drink to retail and on-premise customers.”

While the packaging will change to Hard Rated, the liquid will remain the same.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

ABAC Panel Chair, Professor Michael Lavarch explained that this was a unique case for the ABAC.

“This decision was the first occasion the panel has been called upon to assess the packaging of an RTD product with a brand name and core branding elements taken from a well-established and iconic soft drink brand.

“CUB were careful to devise a packaging design that identified Hard Solo as an alcoholic beverage and not a soft drink. However, the panel believed a reasonable person would probably understand that as a household soft drink brand found in an estimated 1.7 million homes, stocked in supermarkets and convenience stores and marketed freely without the restrictions placed on alcohol products, Solo was an entirely familiar and relatable brand to minors.

“Using the Solo name and other branding features on Hard Solo would elevate the appeal of Hard Solo and create an illusion for minors of a smooth transition from the non-alcoholic to alcoholic variant of Solo.

“Hard Solo was a novel case in that previous RTD packaging designs considered by ABAC had been built upon emphasising an alcohol type or a well-known alcohol brand being combined with a soft drink such as cola or ginger ale.

“Hard Solo packaging in contrast is led by the brand recognition of Solo soft drink. Because of the novel issue, the number of complaints spread over a month and the two-stage process for final decisions on brand names and packaging, the panel determination was lengthy, and the process has taken several months to finalise. Most ABAC decisions are made within 30 days,” Lavarch said.

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