Kofola’s rum-flavored Christmas edition leaves a bitter taste with health officials

Despite being non-alcoholic, the new, limited-edition drink has sparked controversy for sending a negative message to kids.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 31.10.2023 12:27:00 (updated on 31.10.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czech soft drinks brand Kofola has released a limited-edition, non-alcoholic Christmas beverage with a rum flavor. It will be available in stores until January.

The advertising message on Kofola’s website proclaims the new flavor has the power to: “Improve mood, kick away the Christmas grumps, and unravel the language of even the most secretive.”

However, the company has come under scrutiny from health officials who say the campaign has a dangerous message for kids.

Sending a dangerous message

Helena Horálek, an addictologist speaking to news site Hospodářské noviny, warns that exposing children to rum-flavored drinks through branding and marketing can normalize alcohol consumption and establish harmful psychological associations at a young age. "It creates a psychological habit. And that alcohol becomes a norm and a part of life," said Horálek.

Head of the Addiction Clinic at Prague's General University Hospital Petr Popov agrees the launch is inappropriate. While even the taste of the rum flavor is subtle, it nevertheless should not feature children's products, even if no alcohol is present. 

"It's absurd. These drinks mostly target children. If they made a limited edition only for adults, it would be understandable, otherwise, I don't see a reason [for it]. It's the same as with non-alcoholic beer; why teach them the taste of rum?"

Addictologist Helena Horálek

According to a study by research firm Nielsen Admosphere, some 23 percent of children drink non-alcoholic flavored beers, while 3 percent drink flavored beers containing alcohol. Parents surveyed admitted serving flavored beers to 36.4 percent of children 11–15 and even 11 percent of children 3–6.


We’ve done nothing wrong, says Kofola

Kofola spokeswoman Jana Ptačinská Jirátová defended the launch, noting rum's Christmas traditions in Czech foods and drinks every year. She also noted that it is parents’ responsibility to decide whether their children drink Kofola’s rum-flavored version. Experts argue that strongly branding any product as non-alcoholic while promoting liquor is irresponsible.

On average, Czech children have their first (alcoholic) drink aged 12, often at home. The Nechmel děti campaign (roughly translated to "Do not let children drink") found that almost four in 10 Czech parents gave alcohol to their underage children. 

Kofola has produced limited-edition holiday flavors since 2007 with the more wholesome vanilla or apple among previous holiday offerings.

Will you try Kofola’s rum-flavored Christmas drink?

Yes 52 %
No 36 %
Depends if I'll be in the Christmas mood 12 %
84 readers voted on this poll. Voting is open
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