|Do you think this beverage contains alcohol?|
|Soft drinks (324)
As the table above shows, many of our teenage participants had difficulty detecting alcohol in the alcopops — only 69% thought they contained alcohol, compared with 100% correctly identifying the beer and wine as alcoholic drinks.
Almost a quarter of the teenagers couldn’t taste the alcohol in alcopops. They found it most difficult to identify it in Vodka Mudshake (which looks and tastes rather like a chocolate milkshake), particularly the males — only 51% thought this beverage contained alcohol.
Bear in mind, these were 18 and 19-year-olds with some experience drinking alcohol. It’s likely younger drinkers would find it even harder to tell.
According to one participant, "That’s what these are great for — because they do taste like soft drink, it’s good for kids that have no alcohol experience whatsoever, so they don’t have to taste the alcohol and they don’t realise how drunk they’re getting."
And in terms of appeal, alcopops were the most popular alcoholic beverage in our trial — 60% of participants liked their taste (not far behind the 77% who liked the soft drinks), compared with 25% who liked wine and 38% beer.
They’re even more appealing when you’re younger, according to our 18–19-year-olds. Said one, "I used to drink all of these when I was a bit younger ... Like when I was at school."
Alcopop producers use colours as shortcut cues to flavour expectations — green for apple or lime, pink for guava and red for raspberry, for example. But colour itself is also a major part of the appeal of many alcopops for teenagers. An advertorial for Bacardi Breezer describes deep raspberry red as the "hot glamour colour this season" for nails, lips, heels and clutch bags, and goes on to say, "All you need to complete your hot, berry delicious look is another fashion accessory — the new Raspberry Bacardi Breezer."
According to one of our teenage participants, "Wine obviously doesn’t have a good colour to it but you see some of these alcopops and you go 'oh, it’s pink!'"
How we tested
78 teenagers aged 18 and 19 years old, roughly half of them male and half female, took part in our taste test of a range of drinks that included beer, white wine, four kinds of soft drink and four alcopops — 10 in total. Samples were unbranded and each participant received them in a different order. Each participant tasted all 10 samples.
The alcopops used in the taste test were:
Bacardi Breezer Raspberry (4.8% alcohol)
Ruski Lemon (4.8%)
Vodka Cruiser Passionfruit (5%)
Vodka Mudshake Original Chocolate (4%)
For each sample, participants were asked if they thought the drink contained alcohol, and whether they liked the taste and found its colour appealing.
The teenagers also completed a survey about their drinking habits and awareness of alcohol advertising. Sixteen also took part in focus groups, discussing alcohol consumption in general, and alcopops more specifically.