Alcohol alternatives continue to rapidly grow in popularity as a result of reduced alcohol consumption amongst Millennials and Gen Z. These alternatives contain 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) or less. Given the association of alcohol alternatives with alcohol brands and because they do in fact include alcohol, alcohol alternatives brands risk commercial or reputational damage if they make mistakes with their marketing. 

In November 2023, the Advertising Standards Authority announced new rules about advertising alcohol alternatives, which came into force in May 2024, following a six month grace period.  Here is a reminder of the new rules.

CAP and BCAP Code rules

The rules regulating the advertising of alcohol alternatives in non-broadcast media are in sections 18.18 - 18.24 of the CAP Code. Equivalent and similar rules for broadcast media are in sections 19.19 - 19.25 and 32.2 of the BCAP Code. These rules apply if marketing communications are likely to be understood by the audience as as an ad “specifically for an alternative to alcohol.” They will not apply (and will be subject to alcohol advertising rules instead) if they have the “effect of promoting an alcoholic drink”. Advertisers must: 

  • Must include a prominent statement of their ABV;
  • May depict the product in circumstances inappropriate for alcoholic drinks if it is clear that the product is an alcohol alternative; 
  • Must not disparage sobriety or present alcohol consumption as desirable; 
  • Must not be likely to appeal particularly to under 18s, nor be directed to them, and;
  • Must not feature people who are or seem to be under 25 years of age. 


As mentioned earlier, an ad will be subject to (less restricting) alcohol alternative rules if it is likely to be understood by the audience as an ad “specifically for an alternative to alcohol.” This is likely to be achieved by:

  • Use of “non-alcoholic” terms or statements of ABV; 
  • References to consumption instead of alcohol; 
  • Presentation in a style associated with alcohol, or; 
  • Consumption amongst others who are likely to be interpreted as consuming alcohol.

Cross-promotion, e-commerce and shared branding

The Guidance dedicates a few paragraphs to the subjects of cross-promotion and e-commerce, highlighting their significance. “Clarity” emerges as a recurring phrase. For example, the use of alcohol-related imagery such as packaging is likely to be considered as promotion of alcoholic drinks without clarity about the alcohol-free nature of the product. Retailers selling both alcoholic drinks and alcohol alternatives will be pleased to note that promoting such alternatives will not give rise to alcohol advertising rules unless it is (it's that word again) “clear” the product is an alcohol alternative. Links and references to alcohol products that are part of site architecture, such as header images, are also permitted. 

A common area where brands often fall on the wrong side of the law is shared branding. Some alcohol alternatives are marketed under an umbrella of an existing alcohol brand. This is permitted as long as advertisers ensure that the “focus is always on the alcohol alternative, rather than the brand itself”. 

Safe consumption 

Ads for alcohol alternatives, unlike those for alcohol products, can depict scenarios such as driving. This is because there are no public policy concerns about their consumption in such a circumstance. However, there is ambiguity with regards to depicting scenarios where alcohol alternatives are consumed during or around pregnancy. On one hand, the Guidance notes a shortage of evidence relating to the risks of consuming alcohol alternatives. On the other hand, the Guidance cites the UK Chief Medical Officer who recommends that “the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all". As such, the Guidance directs marketers not to state or imply that alcohol alternatives should be consumed during pregnancy. This does not apply to 0.0% alternatives because they do not contain alcohol. 

Take home

The new rules and the guidance indicate the ASA's focus on ensuring lawful and accurate advertising of alcohol alternatives. Before anything else, brands must make sure that their products are 0.5% ABV or less, and their marketing communication are… (you guessed it)… clear. Whilst it can be a challenge, as alcohol alternatives are often made by alcohol brands and sold alongside alcohol products, the complexity of alcohol advertising and risk of marketing an alcoholic product as an alcoholic alternative makes this an important development for marketers to understand now that the six month grace period is over.