China’s popular low-alcohol wine brand ‘MissBerry’, backed by beer giant Budweiser has been handed a fine for violating the country’s advertising law, as China intensifies scrutiny on alcoholic drinks advertising.
Ge Ying (Shanghai) Brand Management Company Ltd.” (格英(上海)品牌管理有限公司), the parent company of the popular fruit wine brand MissBerry, was fined RMB 20,000 (US$3,139) for showcasing the act of drinking in its online advertisements,according to Shanghai’s market watchdog.
MisBerry is well known for its sparkling fruit wine products and other creative drinks including chocolate wine and coffee wine. The wine brand reportedly topped the Tmall fruit wine sales category when it first joined the “Double 11”, one of China’s largest online shopping sprees, in 2020.
Ge Ying (Shanghai) Brand Management Company established MissBerry in 2019, targeting the emerging group of young female consumers with a growing thirst towards low-alcohol drinks. In December 2021, the low-alcohol wine company received strategic investment from Budweiser China, backed by the world’s biggest brewery AB InBev.
According to Shanghai’s market watchdog, Ge Ying (Shanghai) Brand Management Company Ltd., uploaded an advertising video in October 2021 to its flagship store on Tmall, China’s largest retail platform. In the video, the actors have demonstrated the act of drinking twice.
The content has violated Article 23 (2) of the Advertising Law of People’s Republic of China, which states that advertisements on liquor shall not contain any description of an act of drinking. The article is a part of the new advertising law adopted in 2015 that imposes stricter controls on advertisers and prohibits disruptive advertising tactics.
While some of the severe cases can be fined up to RMB 1 million (US$156,954), the company in this case was fined with a relatively lenient amount of RMB 20,000 (US$3,139). The advertisement video has been removed by the company at the start of the investigation.
Similar to ‘MissBerry’, Budweiser and other international drink companies including French wine giant Castel Freres and Pernod Ricard are facing ramped up campaigns from Chinese authorities to combat unregulated promotions of wine and other liquors.
In November 2021, Budweiser China was fined RMB 250,000 (US$39,242) for showcasing the act of drinking in its advertising video and text on its verified Weibo account. In the past two years, Budweiser has been fined four times for violating advertising law in China, totalling over RMB 1 million (US$156,954).
Wine industry insiders may need to level up the awareness towards their advertising content under China’s strict law enforcement as no big local and foreign players can escape from the harsh scrutiny apparently.