“Cartoon-style imagery, childish fonts, bright colouring, personalities that are particularly admired by under-18s, pictures of real or fictional people known to children or terminology popular with children should not be featured”.
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.1
The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)
A drink, its packaging or promotion should not have a particular appeal to under-18s (in the case of sponsorship, those under 18 years of age should not comprise more than 25% of the participants, audience or spectators)
The company’s submission
The company stated that it took all consumer complaints very seriously. The company stated that after carrying out internal due diligence on the product, it had concluded that the product potentially breached Code rule 3.2(h). The company explained that it had discontinued the product with immediate effect (18th May 2021). The company stated that in the future it would endeavour to carry out its own internal due diligence and work with the Portman Group’s Advisory Service, when necessary, prior to launching any new products on the market.
The Panel’s assessment
Code Rule 3.1
The Panel first considered whether the packaging communicated the alcoholic nature of the drink with absolute clarity.
The Panel considered the overall impression of the packaging and the number of ‘positive’ alcohol cues in relation to the number of ‘negative’ alcohol cues, in line with Portman Group guidance. The Panel noted that the front of the can featured a box that read ‘CHERRY SOUR 5% ABV’, which was relatively visible and prominent on the front of the can, with white text on a dark red background. The Panel considered that the back of the can had some positive alcoholic cues including the unit content of the can, the alcoholic strength by volume and the pregnancy warning logo. However, the Panel considered that ‘CHERRY SOUR’ did not clearly identify the contents as alcoholic and noted that the can did not feature other descriptors, such as ‘beer’ or ‘ale’, that would unambiguously identify the contents as alcoholic.
The Panel then considered the negative cues on the can which could lead to consumer confusion about the alcoholic content of the product. The Panel noted that the front of the packaging featured cartoon-like illustrations of cherries with big smiles and legs, ‘splat’ marks and the ‘cherry bomb’ name in large white cursive bubble writing with a drip effect, which the Panel considered could be seen as reminiscent of a soft drink when considered together. The Panel also noted that large text on the back of the can read ‘Cherry Bomb cherry che-rry cher-ry cherry’ alongside text boxes, shaped like drops, that stated ‘EYE: RED’, ‘NOSE: CHERRY DROPS’ and ‘TASTE: CHERRY DROPS’. The Panel noted ‘cherry drops’, and ‘cherry sours’, were names for sweets. The Panel considered that the prominent ‘fruit’ and ‘sweet’ messaging made non-alcoholic messaging a dominant theme of the product.
The Panel concluded that the negative cues in conjunction with the size of the can (330ml), which could also be associated with soft drinks, was problematic. The Panel concluded that taking the overall impression of the packaging, the product breached Code rule 3.1 and accordingly upheld the complaint.
The Panel reminded producers that any alcohol packaging which contained negative cues that might detract from the alcoholic nature of a product such as cartoon-like illustrations and references to sweets, needed to work harder to ensure that the alcoholic nature was communicated with absolute clarity.
Code Rule 3.2(h)
The Panel noted that the company had decided to withdraw the Cherry Bomb packaging with immediate effect, because the company believed it potentially breached Code rule 3.2(h), and welcomed its decision to do so.
The Panel nonetheless considered whether the packaging was in breach of Code rule 3.2(h). The Panel considered the artwork on the front of the can and noted that this included cartoon-like illustrations of cherries with big smiles and legs and white cursive bubble writing which was reminiscent of font used on sweets. The Panel considered the product name and noted that this was presented with other phrases on the back of the can in larger font such as ‘cherry drop’. The Panel emphasised that care should be taken when naming a product, or the product flavour, after well-known sweets/confectionery. The Panel considered that ‘Cherry drops’ were well-known sweets. The Panel concluded that such phrases were not typically associated with alcohol and was concerned that when used in combination with cartoon illustrations and childish font styles they were likely to have a particular appeal to under-18s.
The Panel noted the can featured the company’s corporate logo, a drawing of a stuffed bear, next to the product description on the front of the can. The Panel considered the two previous precedents where it had had considered the bear logo as part of a complaint consideration: namely the Cwtch (2017) and Cwtch (2019) decisions. The Panel noted that on both occasions Cwtch was found to be in breach of the Code and that the bear logo had been a contributary factor in creating a particular appeal to under-18s when considered alongside the design of a bubble font and bright primary colours.
The Panel acknowledged that the bear was the producer’s corporate logo and considered that it did not necessarily breach the Code, in itself, but that it had the potential to appeal to under-18s depending on its size, presentation and contextual appearance.
The Panel stated that, as always, it was imperative to consider the overall impression of the product and that the impact of the bear logo depended on its size and context, including the presence of other design elements that may have a particular appeal to under-18s and/or a design that focused attention on the bear.
The Panel carefully considered whether the bear logo was an element creating a particular appeal to under-18s in the context of the Cherry Bomb can. The Panel considered that the cumulative effect of the cartoon-style imagery, childish font, confectionary elements of the name and description on the can, and the bear logo, meant that the product had a particular appeal to under-18s and accordingly upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
Action by Company:
Product has been discontinued by the company.