By Rebecca Harris

The launch of Diageo’s new off-premise Smirnoff Signature Serve range has created a stir in the industry, with several on-premise figures questioning its validity, and one bar owner calling its release “disappointing”, claiming it “cheapens” the industry.

The product, part of the emerging ‘ready-to-serve’ category, combines the popular vodka with one of two flavours – Blood Orange or Cranberry – in a two litre multi-serve box. However, concerns have been raised that it portrays the industry in a negative light, highlighting issues such as binge and underage drinking, as well as shunning a responsible, educated drinking culture.

“My initial reaction (to the launch) was a concern that it might appeal to underage drinkers.I hope I am wrong,” managing director of local distributor Vanguard Luxury Brands James France said. "People are already referring to this product as a goon bag and as a marketer I also wonder about the imagery of Smirnoff. I think they might draw unwanted attention from the anti-alcohol zealots because, rightly or wrongly, they raise issues like binge drinking and underage drinking.”

Describing the launch as “disappointing”, owner of Adelaide bar Cushdy, Shaun Pattinson, said that, “Teenage binge drinking is the obvious (issue raised) but from a bartender’s point of view it cheapens what we are trying to do. I think the industry has become very sensitive to bad press and products that undo all the hard work that has been put in, particularly over the past five years. These sorts of products do nothing to help the cause.”

The release comes on the back of last year’s successful launch of Smirnoff Cocktails – a range of pre-mixed popular cocktails available in 750ml bottles, and the first in the new ‘ready-to-serve’ category.

“Cocktails in a bottle I can picture being a way for people to be introduced to new flavours, drinks and experiences, like the vodka Mojito, but to put vodka cranberry in a bag is too much,” said Jason Williams, manager at Melbourne bar The Galley Room.

“I totally understand and appreciate a company creating a product for a gap in a market per se, but don’t like it when a company further influences drinking trends by releasing two litre RTDs to further mould their customer base. We want responsible, thoughtful drinkers,” he added.

Although exclusively an off-premise product, concerns have been raised that it affects the industry as a whole, as it steers people away from a more discerning drinking cocktail culture.

“People take their home drinking culture out with them,” said Williams. “All the good work by passionate hospitality operators, liquor marketers, training programs and media is being worked against by products such as this.

“Alcohol at the end of the day is a luxury. Why do we need to cheapen it with this kind of stuff? We want people to respect alcohol and the drinks that can be created and consumed,” he added.

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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