A complaint against Corinthian Brand’s Dragon Soop Venom was upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (Panel). A copy of the full decision is available here.

The complaint was made by the Northern Ireland Alcohol and Drugs Alliance (NIADA) and was upheld under Code rule 3.2(b) as the packaging suggested an association with bravado.

The Panel considered the name Venom would be recognised by the majority of UK consumers to mean ‘poison’ in its day-to-day usage and noted this in the context of a beverage which had a relatively high alcohol and caffeine content. The Panel discussed the company’s explanation that ‘venom’ was a well-understood flavour by young adults but considered that, for the majority of UK consumers, the word ‘venom’, without any qualifying descriptors, would not be widely recognised as a cocktail name in isolation. Additionally, the packaging included the word ‘venom’ several times, and an illustration of a snake which was positioned aggressively baring its fangs. When considering all these elements in combination, the Panel concluded that the name venom, in this particular context, and its presentation, in combination with the aggressive snake imagery, gave the overall impression that the product was marketed mainly on the danger association with venom, and therefore required bravado to drink it. For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the packaging created an association with bravado.

Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said:

“Whilst creativity and brands expressing their identities through their products is to be encouraged, care must be taken to avoid associating alcohol with bravado, or suggesting a consumer must be daring to drink it.. In this case, the name and imagery created an overall impression that was over the line of acceptability. For these reasons, it was a breach of the Code.”

The complaint was not upheld against five other Code rules. In relation to these, the Panel noted:

  • There were enough positive alcohol cues on the Dragon Soop Venom packaging which clearly communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity (3.1 – alcoholic nature of the drink);
  • That while the product’s alcoholic strength was clearly communicated there was no undue emphasis of the strength or intoxicating nature (3.2(a) – alcoholic strength);
  • The product contained 3.75 units, below the recommended four units in a single-serve non-releasable container and contained a responsible drinking message and a link to the Drinkaware website (3.2(f) – immoderate consumption);
  • The muted colour scheme, the font and the imagery were not considered to have a particular appeal to under 18s (3.2(h) – particular appeal to under-18s);
  • The Panel considered that the product factually and neutrally explained the ingredients of the product and did not overemphasise the caffeine content or the effect that drinking caffeine and alcohol could have on consumers. Furthermore, the ‘unique drinking experience’ stated on the product was in relation to how the product tasted and did not suggest the drink had therapeutic qualities (3.2(j) – therapeutic qualities).

Northern Ireland Alcohol and Drugs Alliance was invited to comment and a spokesperson said

“NIADA are delighted that one of the complaints lodged against the drink Dragon Soop has been upheld. We feel it is important as an alliance who deliver Alcohol and Drug services, to highlight the worrying trends and feedback from our young service users regarding caffeinated alcoholic drinks. We are satisfied with the response to this concern and look forward to any amendments made to the marketing of the brand as a result.

“NIADA continue to have concerns over the promotion of caffeinated alcoholic drinks particularly for younger users where the risk of the caffeine masking the effects of the alcohol may lead to increased health harms and disinhibited risky behaviours.”