Kombucha cocktails are becoming increasingly popular as people ditch sugary mixers for healthier alternatives. Picture: Supplied
Kombucha cocktails are becoming increasingly popular as people ditch sugary mixers for healthier alternatives. Picture: Supplied

Mindful drinking: ‘Healthy booze’ trend skyrocketing

HEALTH experts have slammed the alcohol industry for marketing drinks under a "health halo" as they say it misleads consumers into thinking alcoholic drinks are healthy.

The alcohol industry is now offering products such as vegan-wines, low-carb beers and sugar-free pre mixed spirits to ensure health conscious Aussies keep on sipping.

The move mirrors a new trend identified by market research company Nielsen, who has identified that Aussies are switching to perceived healthier drink alternatives at a rapid rate, meaning soft drinks are out and alternatives like soda water and kombucha are in.

Kombucha's popularity has grown sevenfold in the last two years and is now being used as a pre-mixer for alcoholic drinks.

Nielsen 2019 statistics show 4.3 million Aussies believe there are positive benefits to drinking beer and 28 per cent view beer as a "natural product".

7.6 million Aussies believe there are positive benefits to drinking wine and five million said it was important to them that wine is additive and preservative free.

 

Absolut features more than 200 recipes for soda water based alcoholic drinks on its website. Picture: Supplied
Absolut features more than 200 recipes for soda water based alcoholic drinks on its website. Picture: Supplied

 

Advertised "healthy" alternatives for drinkers now include:

* Carlton & United Breweries low-carb' Pure Blonde, boasting 80 per cent less carbs than regular beer;

* CUB's Spring Cider Co. - a cider-blended soda water which is marketed at being ½ a standard drink;

* Vodka brand Absolut offers 200+ soda water based drink recipes on its website, including the 'Absolut Soda and 'Spritzer'. Each encourages at least a shot of alcohol as an ingredient;

* Hahn offer an 'ultra-crisp' beer, which is low-carb and gluten free.

 

The latest 'ultra light' Pure Blonde advertisement. Picture: Supplied
The latest 'ultra light' Pure Blonde advertisement. Picture: Supplied

 

Julia Stafford, a researcher at the WA Public Health Advocacy Institute, has called for stricter regulations for alcohol advertising as she says current legislation is "weak".

She wants the government to intervene and put a stop to "health halo" alcohol advertising.

"It's a really big concern that alcohol companies are trying to make drinks look healthier when really it's the alcohol content of these products that is the major health concern," she said.

"It doesn't matter what you put with it, all the risks that come with consuming alcohol stay the same … intoxication, violence, injuries, drink driving and longer term risks of heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic health conditions."

 

Kombucha brand MOJO says their drinks go well with gin and support it being used as a mixer, as ‘mindful drinkers’ seek healthier alcohol alternatives. Picture: Supplied
Kombucha brand MOJO says their drinks go well with gin and support it being used as a mixer, as ‘mindful drinkers’ seek healthier alcohol alternatives. Picture: Supplied

Ms Stafford, who released findings late 2018 which concluded current regulation did not go far enough to restrict alcohol brands from making health related claims, said mixing alcohol with a healthy mixer did not make the drink healthy.

Kombucha. fermented tea used to improve digestion and immunity, is increasingly being used in bars and at-home as a drink mixer but Ms Stafford said it loses any potential health benefit once a shot of booze is added.

Andrew Buttery, the head of sales of Australian kombucha brand MOJO, disagreed.

He was confident MOJO-branded kombucha did not lose its effectiveness when mixed with alcohol.

 

 

MOJO say their kombucha’s health benefits are not altered when alcohol is added, but health experts say adding alcohol to any drink makes it unhealthy. Picture: Supplied
MOJO say their kombucha’s health benefits are not altered when alcohol is added, but health experts say adding alcohol to any drink makes it unhealthy. Picture: Supplied

 

"The addition of alcohol does not negatively influence the ability of our Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086 (a probiotic which assists digestion) to reach your gut alive where it's colony forming units activate to support your gut health," he said.

"Anyone wanting to retain the potential health benefits of kombucha with the addition of alcohol should be sure to look for chilled brands containing a well-researched probiotic strain."

He said drinkers were choosing "quality over quantity" when they mixed with kombucha and stressed that it was important for consumers to read the label and only use brands with proven probiotics for gut health.

 

Kombucha cocktails are becoming increasingly popular as people ditch sugary mixers for healthier alternatives. Picture: Supplied
Kombucha cocktails are becoming increasingly popular as people ditch sugary mixers for healthier alternatives. Picture: Supplied

 

SodaStream Australia recently teamed up with Soda Press Co to launch a line of "at home" kombucha and tonic water. One of the brand's selling points is that it's great for cocktails and drink mixing.

The company's managing director Mark Fenton said kombucha is a "healthier alternative to sugary, processed soft drinks that are often mixed with alcohol however, all alcohol should be consumed in moderation and responsibly."

 

SodaStream and Soda Press Co have teamed up to offer a kombucha range, they say works great with spirits. Picture: Supplied
SodaStream and Soda Press Co have teamed up to offer a kombucha range, they say works great with spirits. Picture: Supplied

 

He said SodaStream wanted to meet Australian demand for healthier in-home beverages.

"We have definitely seen an increase in Aussies looking for alternatives to sugary and sweet drinks over the past few years. The rise of mindfulness and holistic wellbeing has extended into every aspect of life," Mr Fenton said.

'THE MINDFUL DRINKERS'

Twice a week, Brisbane based yoga instructor Sammy Ball teaches drinkers to sip schooners mindfully for an hour.

Her popular beer yoga classes have been running in the city for almost three years out of local breweries and demand is not slowing down.

Ms Ball felt the rise of kombucha and soda water being used as alcoholic mixers in bars and households was a positive thing.

 

Brisbane based 'Beer Yoga' instructor Sammy Ball says mindful drinking teaches people to be more aware of what they’re putting in their body and slows down the drinking process. Picture: Folk and Fawn Photography
Brisbane based 'Beer Yoga' instructor Sammy Ball says mindful drinking teaches people to be more aware of what they’re putting in their body and slows down the drinking process. Picture: Folk and Fawn Photography

 

"I think people would be using it as a replacement for sugar, drinking kombucha instead of a soft drink is definitely going to be better for you," she said.

The head of Australia's brewers association, Brett Hefferman, agreed.

He said the country's major brewers never make health claims of their drinks but they do assert scientifically proven facts about products that are lower in sugar, carbs and gluten-free.

"This enables consumers to make informed choices about the products they buy," he said.

He advised drinkers to consume products in accordance with National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines on alcohol consumption.

The Australian Medical Association, who is guided by the NHMRC, said "there is no level of drinking alcohol that can be guaranteed to be completely safe or no risk".

HEALTH CLAIMS PROHIBITED

Harry Jenkins, the chair of the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code said alcohol brands are prohibited from claiming their drinks are healthy.

"The ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code has always included a prohibition on alcohol marketing suggesting that the consumption of an alcohol beverage offers any therapeutic benefit," he said.

The ABAC confirmed this applies to visual, audio and written marketing.

Mr Jenkins said there have been a number of instances where alcohol markets have been found to be in breach of the code.

In 2018 a Victorian bar was found in breach for using Facebook to promote a "healthy" cocktail range. The bar used a photo and text to claim the drink was sugar-free, contained electrolytes and "will keep you hydrated all night".



Pest plants to be monitored by Council

Pest plants to be monitored by Council

'It is integral that Council monitors these pests'