Ten products produced by independent brewer Direct Beers Ltd have been found to breach the Portman Group's Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks.
The Independent Complaints Panel ruled that Cat Piss, Dog Piss, Bullshit, Dandelion & Birdshit, Big Cock, Arse Liquor, Puke, Shitfaced, Yellow Snow and Knobhead , all beers, breached the provisions of the Code.
All of the products were found to contravene Paragraph 3.2(h) of the Code, which states that drinks, packaging or promotional material should not have particular appeal to under-18s.
In addition, Puke, Shiitfaced and Knobhead were deemed to encourage illegal, irresponsible, or immoderate consumption (contrary to Paragraph 3.2f). Big Cock and Knobhead were found in breach for suggesting an association with sexual activity
(contrary to Paragraph 3.2d); whilst Shitfaced and Yellow Snow were found in breach for suggesting an association with bravado, violence, aggression, or anti-social behaviour (contrary to Paragraph 3.2b).
Complaints to the Panel regarding Direct Beers' Grumpy Git and Lazy Sod products, however, were not upheld.
All of the complaints about Direct Beers were submitted by the Public Health Team at Newcastle City Council.
Direct Beers asserted that none of its products were intended to appeal to under-18s, and explained that the vast majority of its drinks were sold in person at retail events, where it operated a Challenge 25 policy.
The Panel was concerned, however, that frequent references to scatological humour, defecation, urination, genitalia, vomiting and other bodily functions could prove particularly attractive to under-18s. It also noted that this appeal was
exacerbated by the cartoon illustrations shown on a number of the products.
Henry Ashworth, Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, said:
It is vitally important that alcohol producers ensure that their drinks do not in any way appeal to children, encourage violence, anti-social behaviour or immoderate drinking, or make references to sexual activity. There is a place for humour in
alcohol marketing, as the Panel's decisions on Grumpy Git and Lazy Sod show -- but it is important to know where to draw the line."
Direct Beers has not yet confirmed whether it will make any amendments to its products.
A complaint about the packaging of Dragon Soop (500ml can) for encouraging immoderate consumption and appealing to under-18s has not been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP).
The complainant, Middlesbrough Council Public Health Team, were concerned that the product encouraged irresponsible consumption as it contained the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) daily unit guidelines for men (3-4 units) and exceeded that for
women (2-3 units). The complainant also considered that the brightly coloured packaging, the cartoon dragon image and product flavour would appeal to younger people.
In considering the product, the Panel referred to previous rulings on 500ml cans and the wider societal context including the Public Health Responsibility Deal pledge which stated that signatories will not produce or sell any carbonated
product with more than (4) units of alcohol in a single-serve can . It was noted that whilst four units of alcohol was on the threshold of the CMOs' lower risk daily guidelines for men (3-4 units) and above for women (2-3 units), taking into
consideration all factors within the context of the case, they concluded that on balance the product did not encourage immoderate consumption. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the product under Code paragraph 3.2(f).
The Panel considered whether the product had a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel noted that whilst some of the colours were bright, the imagery (including the dragon) was neither overly childish nor likely to particularly appeal to
under-18s. The Panel therefore concluded that the product did not breach the Code.
A complaint about the packaging of 5 x 20ml bottles of Mmwah (mixed flavour alcoholic drinks) produced by Harwood Drinks Ltd has been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) for particularly appealing to under-18s. The ICP did not uphold
a further aspect of the complaint which suggested the packaging encouraged immoderate consumption.
The complaint was initiated by a member of the public who, believed that the cute size of the small bottles could lead to immoderate consumption by encouraging snacking on alcohol . The complaint also highlighted the style of
writing, flavours and size of the product packaging as appealing to a younger age group.
The ICP considered the packaging under paragraph 3.2(f) (encouraging illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption) and 3.2(h) (having a particular appeal to under-18s) of the Portman Group's Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and
Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks.
In considering whether the packaging encouraged immoderate consumption, the Panel noted that the total alcohol content of all five 20ml bottles was 1.5 units. Accordingly the packaging was not considered to encourage immoderate consumption and
was not upheld under Code rule 3.2(f).
The Panel then considered whether the product had a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel discussed the style of font, product name, colour and imagery used on both the primary and secondary packaging. They considered each aspect individually
and also the overall impression conveyed by the packaging. The Panel concluded that the style of font, bright colours, language and miniature size combined would have particular appeal to under-18s, particularly young girls. Accordingly, the
Panel upheld the complaint under code paragraph 3.2(h).
Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, Henry Ashworth said:
When creating packaging and design for an alcoholic product, it is important to consider how all the elements combine so that, however inadvertently, the packaging does not end up having a particular appeal to under-18s. The Portman Group
Advisory Service is on hand to provide free and confidential advice regarding the marketing and packaging of alcoholic products.
Anti-alcohol campaigners, Alcohol Concern, complained to the drinks industry trade group in its self regulating role as drinks censor:
We would like to ask the Panel to consider whether the Heineken UK beer packaging and marketing using an image of the armed character of James Bond is in breach of Section 3.2(b) of the Code, which states that a drink, its packaging and any
promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way... suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour .
We note that in May 2012, the Panel ruled against a pump clip produced by the Ramsgate Brewery since it felt that the Kray Twins [shown on the clip] were intrinsically linked with violence and aggression and were also relevant and
contemporary . We would maintain that this is equally true of James Bond, particularly given the high degree of violence in recent Bond films.
Given that James Bond is a character who is also well known for his sexual success and unusually heavy drinking, we suggest that this marketing campaign is also in breach of Sections 3.2(d) and 3.2(f) of the Code, which prohibit any association
direct or indirect with sexual activity or sexual success or with irresponsible or immoderate consumption .
Portman Group Decision:
Under Code paragraph 3.2(b): NOT UPHELD
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(d): NOT UPHELD
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with sexual activity or sexual success.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(f): NOT UPHELD
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.
The Panel recognised that James Bond is a brave, daring and sometimes violent fictional character. However, the Panel did not believe that the use of a stylised image of a known fictional character would lead the average consumer to draw
similarities between themselves and the character depicted.
The Panel discussed the use of an image of a pistol, which they considered for some time. The Panel noted that despite the pistol, the image itself is not of a violent nature and does not allude to or focus on violent or aggressive behaviour. In
this case the Panel considered that the pistol is displayed in a stylised pose and is not depicted as being used to shoot or to cause harm, nor is the pistol a prominent feature on the packaging. The Panel agreed that including an image of a gun
on packaging carries a high risk of creating an association with violent behaviour; however, on balance, the Panel were satisfied that the stylised motif of James Bond in his trademark silhouette stance serves mainly to draw attention to the
wider James Bond brand rather than violent behaviour. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the product under Code rule 3.2(b).
The Panel considered whether imagery used on the product suggested any association with sexual activity/success or with immoderate/ irresponsible consumption. The Panel could not find any reason why the use of the stylised image of James Bond or
reference to the wider James Bond brand would lead consumers to believe that the product may suggest an association with sexual success/activity or would encourage consumers to consume the product immoderately or irresponsibly. For instance,
there were no other images on the packaging (such as a woman) which could give rise to this association. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the product under Code rules 3.2(d) or (f).
The anti-drink campaign group Alcohol Concern has whinged about the packaging for Kopparberg Frozen Fruit Cider. The campaigners claimed that the drink did not make clear that it contained alcohol and that the packaging would appeal to
youngsters due to similarities with an unspecified popular non-alcoholic drink.
The complaint was not upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP), part of the Portman Group, an industry organisation that censors UK drinks packaging.
The Panel discussed whether the alcoholic nature of the drink was communicated with absolute clarity. They found that the word cider and contains alcohol were prominent on the packaging as was the ABV strength. Accordingly, the
Panel did not uphold the product under Code rule 3.1
The Panel deliberated whether the packaging could particularly appeal to those under 18. The Panel noted a number of significant differences in comparison to the packaging of well-known soft drinks. The product did not have a straw and was not
designed to be consumed directly from the pouch. The product was intended to be taken home, frozen and then poured into a glass. The Panel considered that this ritual was targeted at an adult audience.
The Panel also concluded that the colours used on the packaging, particularly the use of black, gave the product a premium appearance that would be more appealing to adults.
Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the product under Code rule 3.2(h), particular appeal to children.
A complaint about the packaging of K Cider promoting immoderate drinking and urging the consumer to drink rapidly or down the product in one, has not been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel of the Portman Group.
The complainant, Portsmouth City Council, believed that the combination of the strength of the product plus the fact the product is served in a 500ml non-resealable can encouraged consumers to drink immoderately. The council commented on the
As once opened [the product] must be consumed or rapidly lose quality of taste etc. This encourages people to drink the entire can in one serving... thus breaching the Portman Group Code under paragraphs 3.2(f) and 3.2 (g).
The product was brought to the attention of the Panel prior to the consultation on the Chief Medical Officers' (CMOs') 2016 Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, and was put on hold until the Guidelines Review had concluded. The Panel noted that the
current CMOs' guidelines did not contain a daily or single occasion drinking guideline, and the Panel could not infer from the evidence presented to the CMOs by the Guidelines Development Group that 4.2 units on a single occasion was an
immoderate (whether because of increased risk to health or safety or otherwise) level of drinking. The Panel therefore concluded that there was insufficient evidence to find a breach of Code paragraph 3.2(f).
The Panel could not see anything on the packaging that would encourage a consumer to drink rapidly or to down a product in one. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the product under Code paragraph 3.2(g).
Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, Kay Perry said:
Alcohol producers must be mindful not to encourage immoderate or irresponsible drinking when designing the packaging of their products. If they are in any doubt, the Portman Group Advisory Service is free and confidential, and responds to all
enquiries within two working days.
The Portnam Group is a drinks industry panel which investigates complaints about the marketing of alcoholic drinks. The latest adjudication reads:
A complaint about the packaging of Old English Gin promoting excessive drinking has not been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel (Panel).
The complainant believed that due to the fact that the product is sealed with a wine-style cork it is less practical than a more usual spirit closure --.and will encourage purchasers to drink the bottle more quickly than they would
The Panel were presented with the bottle of Old English Gin sealed to gauge if it could be opened easily. The Panel proceeded to open the bottle and reseal it with the cork. Whilst disappointed with the Company's short response, the Panel found
that the bottle was straightforward to reseal; with the brand name etched upside down on the cork so that when it was inserted into the neck the writing on the cork was the right-way up. The Panel noted this design feature and that the product
was unlikely to deteriorate quickly and therefore would not encourage consumers to drink the product more quickly. The Panel therefore concluded that the product did not breach the Code.
A complaint about the packaging of Cwtch Welsh Red Ale (330ml can) has been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel for having a particular appeal to under-18s and indirectly encouraging immoderate consumption.
The complainant, a member of the public, believed that the product wasn't obviously alcoholic, due to the design, and also had a particular appeal to children.
When considering the image of the bear on the front of the can, and its positioning alongside the wording Tiny Rebel, the Panel agreed that the packaging indirectly encouraged immoderate consumption. The Panel also considered the prominence of
the bear above the wording Tiny Rebel, in combination with the graffiti and swirling primary colours, caused the product to have a particular appeal to under-18s.
While considering the ruling, the Panel recognised Tiny Rebel's social responsibility work in their local community and highlighted that they had not deliberately sought to create product packaging which had an appeal to under-18s.
The Portman Group also acknowledged the positive way in which the producer has engaged with the Advisory Service throughout the complaint process and welcomed its early commitment to respect the Panel's ruling.
Drink censors from the Portman Group have ludicrously whinged at Spar for describing a range of wines as 'everyday drinking'. The phrase was used as marketing speak for commonplace and cheap. It was not used for any customer facing promotional
material. The press release included the paragraph:
Matt Fowkes , SPAR UK Wine Trading Manager added: Our new 'Everyday Drinking' range at £5 and 'Varietals' range at £6 are a result of an extensive review of our SPAR Brand wine values. We are targeting customers who buy wine by their preferred
style and key grape varieties. We've made selecting wine easier and more accessible for them.
The Portman Group published the following adjudication:
A complaint about two SPAR press releases promoting a new Everyday Wine range has been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel (Panel) for indirectly encouraging immoderate consumption.
The complainant, Alcohol Concern Wales, believed that SPAR, by naming the range Everyday Wine, was alluding to drinking the product everyday, going against the Chief Medical Officers' Guidelines on Low Risk Drinking which advises people who drink
regularly to have alcohol free days.
The Panel noted that the press releases were for the company's retailer audience and were not intended for consumer communication. The term everyday was used to position the product to retailers as lower priced wine. In both press releases the
wording used appeared as everyday drinking which linked the messaging to daily consumption of the product. The Panel concluded that the phrase was creating a direct correlation between low price and acceptability of everyday alcohol consumption,
although this may have been unintentional. When considered in the context of the 2016 CMOs' Guidelines the Panel agreed that the term everyday drinking was unacceptable under rule 3.2(f).
The Panel advised that all companies should carefully consider the language used in brand communications regardless of intended audience, because in a digital age there was always the potential for the communication to be seen by a wider group.
In this instance, a different phrase to categorise the range could have been used.
The Portman Group welcomed SPAR's confirmation that they would not use the term Everyday Wine in either consumer or retailer facing communications following the Panel's decision.
Nostalgic references to the sweets, clothes and cartoons of yesteryear saw a number of drinks fall foul of the alcohol marketing rules last year, according to the Portman Group's annual report.
The Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Jenny Watson CBE, has urged marketers to be careful if they use retro designs which appeal to an adult's inner child because they may inadvertently also appeal to children today.
Three of the five cases that came before the Independent Complaints Panel in 2017 were about the use of nostalgia-based designs with complainants concerned that references to retro sweets, clothes and cartoons could have particular appeal to
children. In two of the cases, the complaints were upheld.
The majority of complaints received were under Code rules about particular appeal to under-18s and whether the alcoholic nature of the drink was communicated with clarity.
The Portman Group is currently updating its Code of Practice with the consultation running until the 6th July.
A complaint made against Desperados has not been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel
The complainant, a member of the public, believed that the sale of Heineken's Desperados in a 250 ml can could appeal to under 18s due to it being in the same size can as energy drinks. The complainant also believed that the size of the can could
mean that the product could be downed in one.
The Panel first considered whether the product had a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel noted that the 250ml can size did not have a traditional association with soft drinks, and the size of the can alone did not necessarily lead the
product to be problematic under the Code. The Panel considered the other elements of the can's design and noted that the colour palette, although it contained bright and contrasting colours, had a mature theme. The Panel also considered that the
language used provided clarity around its alcoholic content. Accordingly, the Panel did not find the product in breach of Code rule 3.2(h)
The Panel then considered if the product directly or indirectly urged the consumer to drink rapidly or down the contents in one. The Panel noted that the can did not feature any text or other instruction that the contents should be downed-in-one.
The Panel was also clear that a smaller one serve container was different to encouraging a rapid or down in one message. Accordingly, the Panel did not find the product in breach of the Code.
A complaint about HappyDown sparkling cocktails has been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel for failing to clearly communicate their alcoholic content.
The complainant, a member of the public, believed that the cartoon imagery used on the cans could appeal to children. The Panel did not believe that it did appeal to children but did raise concerns that the cues describing it as alcoholic were
not immediately obvious. The Panel concluded that the alcoholic nature of the drink was not clearly communicated and accordingly found the product in breach of Code rule 3.1.
HappyDown's producer, Tipple Brands Limited, will work with the Advisory Service to address the issues raised.
John Timothy, Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, commented, Alcoholic content needs to be conveyed clearly. Producers need to ask themselves if there is any other messaging or design on their product which could undermine this
A complaint about 3 Pugs Gin produced by Silverback Distillers has been upheld by the drinks censors of the Portman Group.
The complainant, a member of the public, believed that the product was aimed at an under-18's audience. The complaint was upheld under Code rule 3.2(h), which states that a drink, its packaging and any promotional material should not in any
direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.
The Panel considered the overall packaging of the product. They concluded that the use of the descriptor pugalicious, description of the bubblegum flavour on the labelling and the fact that the product was a pink coloured gin were not in
themselves problematic. However, the Panel felt that when these factors were considered alongside the depiction of the dogs as cartoon pugs in a hot air balloon overlooking a Willy Wonka-like sweet land across a pink liquid, then it was likely to
have a particular appeal to under-18s.
A Portman Group spokesperson commented: This decision once again highlights that producers should steer clear of references and imagery related to childhood and childhood memories. They should think carefully about what is conveyed by the overall
impression of the product and speak to our advisory service if in any doubt.