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Coca-Cola launches line of hard seltzers in Belgium

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Soda maker Coca-Cola is now offering hard seltzers in Belgium – the fruit-flavoured, lightly alcoholic fizzy drinks that are popular in the US and Britain.

This is the first time the company has launched an alcoholic brand in Belgium.

The Belgian subsidiary of the American beverage giant is relying on a Mexican brand of sparkling water, Topo Chico, which is used by bartenders and mixologists in the United States and Latin America for cocktails.

Health and addiction organisations expressed concern at the decision last April by brewing giant AB InBev to launch its range of so-called ‘hard seltzers’ in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, saying that the alcoholic beverages are marketed heavily towards people between the ages of 16 and 18.

Those concerns were echoed again with the announcement from Coca-Cola.

“It’s still a producer of drinks that are very popular with children, but now it’s coming in with alcohol,” said Katleen Peleman, director of the Flemish centre for expertise on alcohol and other drugs (VAD).

In response to concerns about a popular soft drink company selling alcohol that appeals to younger people, Coca-Cola said it won’t advertise the drinks near schools.

“We are aware of our responsibility and will pursue a strict marketing policy, aimed solely at the over-20s,” said a spokesperson, adding that only media with an audience that is 80% adult will be targeted for advertising campaigns.

The VAD was unmoved.

“The look and feel of the product appeals to the young. And it is very difficult, in marketing practices, to differentiate between the over and under 20s,” said Peleman.

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Topo Chico hard seltzer made an appearance in the Latin American market back in September 2020. In recent months, their drinks have been launched in several European countries such as France, the Netherlands and Great Britain.

Topo Chico Hard Seltzer was originally developed in Atlanta in the US, but adapted for European taste buds, Coca-Cola said in a statement on Wednesday.

Three flavours have been developed: lemon, mango and cherry. The 33cl cans contain 99 calories (compared to 140 for a regular Coca-Cola or a lager-type beer), 2.6 grams of sugar (compared to 33 grams for a Coca-Cola) and 4.1% alcohol.

The Brussels Times