Member of the public


‘I only drink non-alcoholic beers. A friend of mine recently told me that Asahi have a great zero alcohol beer and there were some in the fridge.
Asahi bottles currently have a big zero *like* looking character on the front – a tool that many zero-alcohol beers have to denote their beer is alcohol-free or low alcohol.
I’m not militantly against alcohol or anything, I love beer and love the explosion of non-alcoholic beers. I am genuinely a bit concerned that people could drive, or someone with a health condition could drink a full-blooded Asahi because I grabbed one absolutely certain it was an Asahi Zero.
The Asahi zero is very clear with 0.0% on it, I get that, but having not seen that before I assumed the square-y zero character on the front was a stylized zero.
My suggestion is that there’s some signage next to the character that shows the beer is alcoholic. perhaps the strength below it or something.’


Under Code paragraph 3.1
3.1 The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.


The company’s submission:

The company stated it was a longstanding signatory to the Portman Group Codes of Practice and held itself to the highest standards of responsible alcohol marketing, including packaging. This commitment was demonstrated through the company’s commercial communication policy and public commitments to industry standards
through membership of multiple UK and international organisations. The company explained that all of its packaging was reviewed by a ‘Sales & Marketing Responsibility Committee’ made up of senior leaders from Marketing, Corporate Affairs, Sustainability and Legal departments to ensure all packaging complied with the Code of Practice, internal policies, and legislation.

The company disagreed that Asahi Super Dry was in breach of the Code and explained that the packaging complied with Code rule 3.1 and communicated its alcoholic nature in several ways. The company stated that the drink’s alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) and a responsible drinking message were present on the back of the packaging alongside the mandatory labelling requirements which were unobscured and in the same field of vision.

The company noted that it was not a requirement of the Code for mandatory labelling requirements to be presented on the front label, so long as the packaging did not mislead consumers regarding the drink’s alcoholic nature. To that point, the company highlighted other elements on the packaging which communicated the drink’s alcoholic nature, this included:

• ‘beer’ on the front label;
• a crown cap;
• a dark brown coloured bottle typical of alcohol containers;
• ‘Asahi’ which was a well-established alcohol brand;
• the drink did not have a ‘novel’ container and
• the front label included the descriptors ‘brewing’ and ‘Japanese master brewers’.

The company then addressed the complainant’s concern regarding to the ‘zero’ like symbol. The company explained that the character in question was a traditional Japanese Kanji character, which formed part of a longer Japanese script ‘辛口‘ (pronounced ‘karakuchi’). It was only used on the packaging in that form and was clearly a square shape which the company refuted was zero like. In terms of the Kanji character resembling zero-alcohol beers, the company explained that in comparison, its Asahi Super Dry alcohol-free version incorporated ‘Alc. 0.0% Vol’ which significantly differed from the Kanji character, most notably by including an Alc. abbreviation, 0.0, and a ‘%’ figure. While the company could not confirm that all UK zero alcohol beers followed this practice, it did not believe that the wider industry used a symbol like the Kanji character to market 0.0% alcohol.

The company explained it was committed to ensuring all its drinks were consumed responsibly and as such included the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines, the unit content, a drink-driving logo, a pregnancy warning, and an age restriction logo on the drink’s packaging.

Finally, to highlight that a consumer would not misconstrue Asahi Super Dry with alcohol-free Asahi Super Dry, the company noted several differences in the packaging which included:

• The colour palette: the alcohol beer had a black colour palette, whilst the alcohol-free palette was blue;
• The text ‘alcohol-free’ was included on the front label of the alcohol-free beer;
• The front label of the alcohol-free beer stated ‘Alc. 0.0% vol’ twice;
• The back label of the alcohol-free beer stated ‘Alc. 0.0% vol’ twice;
• The text on the alcohol-free front label referenced 0.0% twice

The Panel’s Assessment:

The Panel discussed the concerns raised by the complainant and expressed a degree of sympathy regarding the potential for confusion between alcoholic and non-alcoholic products that shared branding. However, the Panel discussed the requirements laid out in the Code and noted that the Code’s requirement for a product to communicate its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity meant that, after consideration of a product’s packaging, there should be no confusion as to whether a product was alcoholic or not, regardless of shared branding. The Panel clarified that the basis of its consideration would therefore relate to the alcoholic version of Asahi Super Dry and whether the packaging of that drink specifically communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity and that this would not be assessed comparatively against the alcohol-free version.

The Panel assessed the front and back label of the drink and noted that there were several instances of positive alcohol cues on the front label. This included references to ‘beer’ and ‘brewing’ several times. The Panel considered the back label and observed further positive alcohol cues such as the word ‘beer’, a responsible drinking message, unit content information and the drink’s ABV. After assessing the packaging in its entirety, the Panel considered the product sufficiently communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity.

The Panel then discussed whether the square on the front label could cause consumer confusion as to the drink’s alcoholic nature as raised by the complainant. The Panel considered that the square was presented as a Kanji character and was presented in a wider Japanese context on the label, as opposed to an isolated symbol which possibly denoted the drink contained zero alcohol. The Panel noted that the character was a square rather than a circle and therefore considered that the majority of consumers would be unlikely to mistake it as a reference to a drink containing zero alcohol.
Therefore, the Panel concluded that the drink’s packaging did communicate its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the complaint.

Action by Company:

None required.