Wednesday, 08 September 2021
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Menzies and George Institute researcher and lead author Cassandra Wright.
Menzies and George Institute researcher and lead author Cassandra Wright.

Menzies researchers say zero-alcohol beverages a cause for concern

A new paper by Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) and The George Institute for Global Health (George Institute) questions whether zero alcohol beverages are giving young Australians a taste for alcohol.

Zero-alcohol beverages are becoming increasingly popular in Australia with major brands now stocked on supermarket shelves. Consumption of zero-alcohol products increased by 2.9 per cent in 2020 and is expected to increase by 31 per cent by 2024.

Menzies and George Institute researcher and lead author Cassandra Wright said that zero-alcohol beverages and alcoholic beverages are often packaged identically and can be indistinguishable in taste.

“The sale of zero-alcohol beverages in supermarkets means young people will be more frequently exposed to alcohol companies’ branding and logos,” Ms Wright said.

“Alcohol advertising exposure has been shown to increase early initiation of alcohol use and increased alcohol use. It can also foster brand allegiance, a factor that has been shown to lead to increased chances of young people consuming alcohol.”

Children and young people may be buying these products from their local store and some may contain small amounts of alcohol. Researchers do not yet know what impact consuming zero-alcohol beverages in childhood will have on subsequent alcohol use.

Ms Wright said that further research is needed to assess whether the ease of availability of zero-alcohol beverages may lead to a gateway effect, where children who consume them would be more likely to consume alcoholic beverages underage.

The research was published in Drug and Alcohol Review.