By Ian Neubauer
Independent Distillers (ID) has defied a Government warning about sneaking around the RTD tax hike by launching a new range of ‘malternatives’ — premixed drinks containing alcohol derived from lower-taxed beer.
Bolt — a new flavoured beer range that tastes nothing like beer— has the same ABV as most full-strength beers at around the same price point as spirit-based RTDs prior to introduction of the April tax hike.
In June, the Herald Sun reported Health Minister Nicola Roxon warning she would come down hard on distillers who launched ‘wino-pops’ or other products that circumvented the law.
But ID executive chairman, Doug McKay, denied his company was taking advantage of a loophole, describing the move as an innovative and creative response to a commercial challenge.
“We are filling a gap,” he said. “It is a commercial response to the environment we now operate in. Our products, and the other flavoured beers in the market are entirely legal and comply fully with the Government’s regulatory and excise rules.”
McKay added that malternatives are already popular overseas and Bolt built off similar products that are already available
in Australia, such as Barefoot Radler, Lion Nathan’s lime-infused beer.
The Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA) — which has campaigned furiously for the reversal of the RTD tax hike and wants the Government to implement standardised volumetric taxing for alcoholic products — said the introduction of malternatives was another unintended consequence of the tax hike.
“These other types of RTDs have been available in Australia for some time and it was obvious that companies would move to take advantage of the very different tax rates created by the Government,” said DSICA spokesperson, Stephen Riden. “Also, we have already seen companies increase their marketing efforts around cider to fill the void created by the increased taxation and hence prices of spirit-based RTDs.
“If the Government was serious about addressing problem drinking it would do away with this narrow, ill-conceived tax trial and start taxing products on the amount of alcohol they contain. Australia’s public health groups have consistently called for such a measure,” he said.
Bolt has an ABV of 5 per cent and comes in raspberry, passionfruit and blueberry varieties. For orders call 03 8369 0300 or click here.
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