According to Dr Nipon Chinanowet, Director of the Office of Alcohol Control Committee under the Thailand Public Health Ministry Department of Disease Control, this working team would be formed in collaboration with the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“If it’s advertised as an alcohol-free malt beverage, there’s no problem, but if it’s advertised as an alcohol-free beer, we have to examine the intention and whether the advertising is breaking any law,” he told The Nation.
Adding that the beer companies could be ‘taking advantage of a legal loophole’, Dr Chinanowet said that at present these zero alcohol beverages were being registered as food items under the FDA, which allowed for far less restricted promotion as opposed to alcohol.
However, advertising of these products tend to feature the logos of the relevant brewer brands, which are naturally identical to the relevant alcohol or beer brands, and this is ‘broadly prohibited’, he added.
The working team will look at control measures such as Thailand’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act 2551 (2008) and the application of FDA regulations to ‘exaggerated advertising’.
Marketing alcohol via non-alcoholic options?
The Thai government’s emphasis on this issue revolved around fears that these non-alcoholic products were bring used to promote alcoholic ones through subconscious means.
“[Beer companies could have] one non-alcohol product advertised legally at the same time as [an alcoholic products],” said Dr Chinanowet.
“[This would create] a link in the audience’s mind to [the] products which are restricted from advertising.”
Legislation for control
Thailand has strict laws in place to control alcohol sales and consumption, as per the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.
One of the areas in the act likely to come under scrutiny by the new workforce is Section 32, which states that ‘No person shall advertise or display, directly or indirectly, name or trademark of alcoholic beverage in a manner that showing properties thereof or inducing other person to drink’.
At present, alcohol logos and even imagery that is representative of alcohol brands such as Heineken’s red star are prohibited from being used in any sponsorships, promotions or advertisements.
Alcoholic products are also required to include one of five permitted warning messages, which relate to alcohol causing either physical health issues or socioeconomic damage. Current legislation does not require non-alcoholic ‘beers’ to carry these warnings.
Non-alcoholic ‘beers’ in Thailand
Amongst the products that fall under the umbrella of non-alcoholic ‘beers’ include Heineken 0.0 and Bavaria 0.0%. Heineken 0.0 was launched in Thailand earlier this year.
One of the main reasons that that Heineken opted to launch a non-alcoholic version of its product in the Thai market was in response to the health and wellness trend, according to Maud Meijboom-van Wel, Heineken Brand Development and Communication Director.
"Heineken 0.0 was developed to meet the changing needs of consumers and respond to growing consumer trends in moderate alcohol consumption,” she told Bangkok Post.
Apart from alcohol content, Heineken 0.0 contains just 69 calories per 330ml bottle according to the Heineken Thailand website. It contains just half the calories of the regular, alcoholic variant of Heineken (around 140 calories per 330ml bottle).
That said, Heineken also emphasized that Heineken 0.0 is ‘not intended for consumers who are not older than the age limit allowed by law’.
It also responded to queries about the product’s suitability to be consumed before driving/if on medication/if pregnant by stating: “Heineken 0.0 contains less than 0.03% alcohol. Therefore, it is an alcohol-free beer.”