How responsible is your wine’s message?

by | Apr 23, 2019 | Article

South Africa is the sixth biggest consumer of alcohol in the world, and this often leaves vulnerable communities exposed to the harmful effects of alcohol abuse. Read how a collective industry body is tackling this problem by cultivating a culture of responsible consumption and how you can help.



Wine grape producers, winemakers and marketers have been working hard on ways to address the needs of global consumers who are conscious of the ethical and environmental issues surrounding their product choices, as well as the effect their choices have on their personal wellbeing.

But in South Africa, where alcohol abuse is a major problem, the most pressing concern should be how to package and message alcohol-based products so consumers will buy them, but consume them responsibly. How can wineries help cultivate a culture of conscious, responsible consumption?

Industry-wide effort is a collective of alcoholic drinks businesses and organisations that’s launched an industry-wide effort to promote responsible alcohol consumption and harm reduction through targeted interventions and campaigns. Each business also promotes responsible consumption according to specific guidelines.

“The World Health Organisation’s global status report on alcohol and health ranks South Africa sixth globally in terms of alcohol consumption, yet independent research indicates it tops the list of countries where Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is prevalent,” CEO Ingrid Louw says. “Even though only one third of the population consumes alcohol, most people don’t consume it responsibly.”’s predecessor, Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA), was established in 1989. It was renamed in 2018 and members now include Distell, AB Inbev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and the two wine industry bodies, Vinpro and SA Liquor Brand Owners’ Association (Salba). reached 1 500 people in 2018 through the Nicro (National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders) Road Offences Panel Programme. This short, educational group-based intervention aims to improve awareness of the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol. The Responsible Trade Facilitation Programme has also resulted in the licensing of more than 700 tavern and outlet owners since its launch in 2017.

The Underage Drinking Pilot Programme in the Free State and Mpumalanga reached more than 5 000 learners in eight schools ranging from grades 5-7 and 10-12. Vinpro Foundation Wine Project funding makes social workers available to wine farming communities in 14 areas, and in the 18 months ended December last year the project has resulted in 384 farm residents being counselled, 1 368 children being monitored at child development and aftercare facilities, and 59 crèche and aftercare facilitators being trained.

A striking #ReThink campaign was launched in partnership with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) just before the festive season last year to highlight the dangers of drinking and driving or walking.

Your toolkit

Besides these interventions and campaigns, members can use the Code of Commercial Communications as a toolkit to ensure that their messaging promotes responsible drinking.

“ was the custodian of the Advertising Standards Authority’s previous Code of Communications and has updated the current Code of Commercial Communications to reflect government’s concerns when it comes to responsible marketing of alcoholic products,” Ingrid says.

The government is serious about reducing the harm caused by alcohol use. The current code addresses all its concerns and in most instances goes beyond what is required, Ingrid says. “We saw the update of the code as a window of opportunity to motivate for a more politically nuanced approach given the contents of the National Liquor Amendments Bill with regard to digital advertising and government’s concerns with underage drinking,” she says.

Members of Vinpro and Salba make an annual contribution to through an industry levy. Hence, they can request an certificate to submit along with their application for a liquor license as proof that they support responsible alcohol use.

“As members, we encourage wineries to adhere to the code,” Vinpro wine cellar manager Christo Conradie says. “It’s not only our duty and responsibility to promote a culture of responsible consumption, but should the industry not follow this self-regulating approach, Government could decide to enforce stricter regulations in terms of the proposed amendments in the Liquor Act, which could have a negative effect on the industry as a whole.”

The code is available from the website and is distributed by the respective industry bodies to their members through workshops and information packs. Christo can also be contacted at Vinpro’s offices for any help or information.

Global vs local

Programmes abroad to promote responsible drinking include Drink Aware in the UK, DrinkWise in Australia and the Erasmus Student Network’s Responsible Party campaign that operates across 32 European countries. 

Although there are similarities among these programmes, deals with the specific challenges we face in South Africa, Ingrid says. “We strongly believe that these customised programmes are meaningful and will have a great impact on our country.” w

The principles

The code stipulates commercial communications must:

  • Prevent underage appeal.
  • Portray responsible consumption.
  • Have clearly visible responsible messaging, which includes messaging on internet digital platforms and shareable, downloadable assets such as videos, photos or apps. An age verification must also be included on websites.
  • Clarify on packaging that the product contains alcohol and must not be directed at persons under the legal drinking age. Labels may not include disparaging colloquial terminology such as “dop” or “booze”, convey sexual innuendos or appeal to children.
  • Adhere to specific regulations regarding sponsorship audiences.

Commercial communications may not:

  • Imply that consuming alcohol is essential to success or acceptance in any field.
  • Suggest that alcohol consumption has health benefits.
  • Persuade people to prefer a higher alcohol content because of its intoxicating effect.
  • Suggest any association with aggressive or antisocial behaviour.
  • Portray sports ambassadors drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Promote alcohol-free and non-alcoholic products to persons under the legal drinking age.

Why we do it

Two wineries share their motivation for adhering to the code and ways in which they do it.

Mareli Roux, Leopard’s Leap and La Motte PR manager:

“The principles of responsibility and awareness have always been an important part of our culture and we therefore embrace the industry guidance and focus on this important issue. We also continuously keep our staff informed through internal training and communication.

Signage with responsible messaging is visible on the premises, we include the ‘No under 18’ message in all marketing material, menus, price lists, social media and advertisements, and have age verification on our websites. We also provide coffee, tea and wifi to all drivers and tour guides.”

Carey Christie, DeMorgenzon digital sales and marketing manager:

“We believe that as a leading South African wine producer it’s DeMorgenzon’s responsibility to uphold the Code of Commercial Communications. Alcohol abuse has far-reaching effects and we have an obligation to our consumers and staff to ensure that we promote the safe and responsible consumption of alcohol. DeMorgenzon has implemented age verification on its website which includes the message ‘Be responsible, don’t drink and drive’. The logo also appears on all company signatures, tasting room material and the premises when exiting the tasting room. The information sheet, #Awareoftomorrow, is also visible in all staff areas.”


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