Bass is risking a fresh public outcry with plans to bring out a controversial new version of its Hooper’s Hooch brand, called Hooper’s Reef.
The new Hooper’s variant is a still fruit juice with a “tropical” flavour. It is laced with alcohol, though it is unclear what its alcoholic strength will be.
Observers say the name of the brand is similar to the word “reefer”, which is used to describe a cannabis cigarette, and they believe Bass could be courting controversy by using the Reef tag. It may have an appeal to young people involved in the burgeoning youth drugs culture.
It is thought that Bass is planning to launch the brand next summer. But there is a question mark over whether the launch will go ahead, as leading supermarket chains may refuse to stock it given its controversial branding.
The move comes after the core Hooper’s Hooch brand has suffered a severe decline in sales, despite its market-leading position. Sales slumped by over a third last summer and it appeared the alcopops bubble may have burst, despite attempts by Bass to revive consumer interest with line extensions such as Hooper’s Smooch and Hooper’s Hoola (MW January 10 1997).
The Hooch brand has been at the centre of criticism that drinks companies are targeting alcohol at young people with the launch of alcopops. Bass has made two changes to the Hooch packaging to make the product look more “adult”.