Cider masquerading as gin leaves consumer shaken and stirred

The billboard that upset Lunga Sona. He said it was an attempt to imply that Savanna's new juniper-flavoured cider was gin.
The billboard that upset Lunga Sona. He said it was an attempt to imply that Savanna's new juniper-flavoured cider was gin.
Image: Distell

South Africans are finding the time to worry about issues other than Covid-19 on the eve of a nationwide lockdown.

One of them is Lunga Soga, who complained to the advertising watchdog about a juniper-flavoured cider masquerading as gin.

Soga was particularly upset about the use of “Gs & Ts apply” in billboard and online ads for Savanna Jean.

“G & T commonly refers to gin and tonic, and it is clear that the intent is to try to confuse consumers about the nature of the product,” Soga told the Advertising Regulatory Board.

However, the watchdog noticed that Distell, the owner of Savanna, was trying to be humorous and said wording such as “the crisp flavoured cider” should dispel any confusion. It dismissed Soga's complaint.

The TV commercial that upset him showed a bartender responding to a request for a juniper-flavoured drink by embarking on a lengthy process involving ice-sculpture, a flame-thrower and a cocktail shaker.

“The patron's beard has grown longer when he eventually joins his friends at a table,” said the watchdog's finding.

Soga pointed out that juniper is the key ingredient in gin, the product is named “Jean” as a play on how “gin” is pronounced in SA, and it came in a green bottle similar to popular gins.

But Distell said there was nothing in its ads to mislead consumers and the green bottles were common for cider.

The watchdog said it was disingenuous to claim the product made no implicit reference to gin.

“The combination of a juniper-flavoured product, the name 'Jean' and the use of 'Gs & Ts' is patently an attempt ... to create a link in the minds of consumers between trendy gin and its product,” it said.

“There is no doubt that there is an attempt to jump on the gin bandwagon.

“However, despite this, the wording 'Savanna cider' and 'Savanna, the unapologetic cider' makes it clear that the beverage is a cider and not a gin-infused cocktail or a gin.

“The hypothetical reasonable consumer would notice these elements and understand that the product is not, in fact, a gin.

“The humour in the advertisement lies in the parody made of trendy, hipster gin cocktails that are more garnish and drama than drink.”

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