A wave of Kiwi alcohol brands have entered the market claiming to be a more ethical and healthier alternative to traditional ready to drink (RTD) beverages. How much is really going to charity and are they really healthier than traditional RTDs? Katie Harris investigates.
Conservation isn't usually top of mind when selecting a Saturday night beverage, but a handful of green-minded alcohol brands are hoping to change all that.
Despite having a reputation for being high-sugar calorie-laden cans of fizz, a tide of cleaner and more environmentally conscious RTDs is sweeping the nation.
One brand in particular, Part Time Rangers, is a permanent fixture at almost every Millennial or Gen Z function.
The black, white, blue and now pink boxes litter the living rooms of flats across the country every Sunday morning, promising consumers not only a lower sugar libation, but one that also saves animals.
Chief executive Oliver Deane isn't new to the spotlight, as their drink seems to have been the catalyst for the groundswell of change in the growing conservation stem of the liquor industry.
Despite only launching in July last year, the Rangers have enabled a kilometre of elephant-proof fencing to be built through a $19,444 donation, bankrolled the removal of 15,000 litres of rubbish on New Zealand coastlines and pledged $75,000 to relocate a rhino.
"The purpose behind the brand is animal conservation and healthy alternative drinks," Deane said.
Giving came easily to Deane and his brother and co-founder William Deane as the pair come from a family of humanitarians and have a close connection with Ethiopia.
"This generation understands the problems in this world, and to be able to switch your consumer products to make a difference is just a simple way of helping."
He said they donate 10 per cent of profits from each sale, with the donation going to the corresponding animal on the can.
Another group changing the face of liquor in New Zealand is Wellington-based Native.
Founder Guy Hobson hasn't been in the beverage game long but the company's unique liquor has already caused a stir.
"We are formed as a neutral spirit, so we're not actually a gin, vodka or white rum so we can kind of cater to people who have already built a preference to one or the other."
Hobson said they started the social enterprise because the majority of people want to be doing good things and with eight out of 10 adults enjoying alcohol on a regular basis, it creates a model for consumers to choose brands that are making a difference.
"It connects really well with a younger crowd who are seeking to make an impact with their daily or weekend lives but not necessarily spending weekends planting trees."
He said they understood alcohol did have an effect on society which is why they are one of the lightest drinks in their category and only come in a six-pack.
"We want Native to be part of the good memories formed with friends, not something that you can't remember doing the next day."
Native works with Pūkaha trust as well as Squawk Squad and will be launching their "100 Club" to support 100 Kiwis from hatching to release.
University of Otago Senior lecturer of human nutrition Katherine Black said low-sugar alcohol drinks were probably slightly better, but you were still getting energy from the alcohol and doing damage to your teeth.
"Yes you're cutting out sugar but you're still getting things in there which aren't ideal."
She said if people did want to drink alcohol they should follow the New Zealand guidelines and drink in moderation.
Another newbie to the sustainable alcohol line-up is Fresh Wave.
Although they only launched last month, director Steve Shaw estimated that they had already donated between 16 and 18 per cent of profits.
Shaw said since October they had contributed thousands of dollars to Sustainable Coastlines and Surf Life Saving New Zealand as well as another ocean-related charity who did not want to be named.
According to Statistics New Zealand, from December 2017 to December 2018 the volume of spirits and spirit-based drinks available for consumption in New Zealand rose by 4.9 per cent; this was the fourth year in succession consumption of spirit-based drinks had risen.
Massey University senior lecturer Dr Andy Towers said the bottom line in the mental health and addictions sector is that it is never okay for alcohol companies to use charitable donations as a sales gimmick.
"This is effectively the alcohol industry's equivalent of 'greenwashing' to make their industry look more appealing."
The claim of some new RTD brands to be "clean" is a marketing misnomer according to Towers, who said the issue with alcohol wasn't the sugar, but the amount of alcohol.
"Ultimately, the issue is still about harm. You can wrap a bullet in lettuce and claim that it's a 'healthy bullet'; this doesn't stop it being deadly."
With consumers becoming more socially aware and health conscious, the popularity of Part Time Rangers and drinks like it is not surprising.
This is only the beginning for sustainable alcohol, and with more companies competing for consumer bucks, is letting charity organisations in on the deal really so wrong?