A complaint about a Van Pur S.A. product, Karpackie 9%, was upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel. A copy of the full decision is available here.
Each time a new Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks is introduced, the Portman Group commissions an independent audit of the market to measure compliance. In 2019, the Portman Group introduced the sixth edition of the Code of Practice and commissioned Zenith Global to carry out an audit of 500 products which were randomly selected from the market. Zenith Global was concerned that Karpackie 9% might be in breach of the Code of Practice. The full audit report will be published in due course.
During the audit, Zenith Global expressed concern that the product put undue emphasis on its alcoholic strength by presenting the “9%” in red and bold font on the front of the can against a black background. They also raised concern that the product’s packaging may encourage immoderate consumption with 4.5 units in a single-serve container without including any mitigation measures such as a ‘share’ message or a ‘per serve’ recommendation.
Reviewing the product in detail, the Panel noted:
- Although producers need to communicate the strength of their products to differentiate those within the same range the incorporation of “9%” in the brand name, when it was a higher than average strength for the category, risked giving undue emphasis to the strength.
- The “9%” appeared in large red type and was a prominent element of the design which emphasised the higher strength which might appeal particularly to those who were vulnerable, in this case because of their drinking.
- The 500ml can contained 4.5 units which in combination with its non-resealable nature was of a type typically consumed by one person in one sitting (as shown by a recent YouGov survey) and which therefore may encourage immoderate consumption.
In conclusion, the Panel believed the product design gave undue emphasis to alcoholic strength particularly to those who were vulnerable and the size and non-resealable nature of the can may encourage immoderate consumption. For this reason, the complaint was upheld under Code paragraph:
- 2(a) A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way give the higher alcoholic strength, or intoxicating effect, undue emphasis. A product’s lower alcoholic strength may be emphasised proportionately when it is below average strength for similar beverages. Factual information about alcoholic strength may be given.
- 2(f) 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 a drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.
Commenting on the decision the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Jenny Watson, said:
“As a Panel, we concluded that the presentation of the “9%” went beyond giving factual information and gave undue emphasis on the higher strength of the product which may have particular appeal to those who are vulnerable. Further to this, we concluded that the non-resealable nature of the high strength 500ml can in combination with the absence of a sharing message meant the product was likely to encourage immoderate consumption.
“Whilst the Panel acknowledged that Van Pur S.A. was planning to redesign their packaging across the Karpackie product line in the near future to bring it in line with the Code; the decision relates to the version of the packaging the complainant had identified and the Panel are unable to comment on any proposed future design”.
For more information please contact Nicola Bates:
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Notes to editors:
- The full decision from the Independent Complaints Panel is available on the Portman Group’s website.
- The Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks applies to all pre-packaged alcoholic drinks and the promotional activities of all drinks producers. A copy of the Code may be downloaded here.
- This complaint was considered under the sixth edition of the Code of Practice.
- The Independent Complaints Panel is headed by Jenny Watson CBE a former Chair of the Electoral Commission and Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission. The Panel is drawn from a range of civic society who has worked in education, youth work, charity, criminal justice, health, marketing, hospitality and the alcohol industry. It is this mix of views and experiences which provides them with the authority to jointly provide a considered view on complaints based on the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks. The members of the panel can be found here.
- Since the Code was introduced in 1996, the packaging and/or marketing of over 150 drinks have been found to breach the Code. In the case of a Code breach concerning a drink’s packaging or point-of-sale material, a timetable for implementing the necessary changes – not normally exceeding three months – will be supplied in writing to the company concerned. Retailers may be notified of the decision taken by the Independent Complaints Panel and requested not to replenish stocks or point-of-sale material of any product found in breach of the Code, after the date specified by the Code Secretariat.
- The Portman Group provides a free and confidential Advisory Service for alcohol producers to check products prior to launch and seek advice on responsible alcohol marketing. Over 2000 separate advice requests have been answered since 2010. Advice can be requested here.
- The Portman Group is the alcohol industry regulator. It has over 130 code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies. The Portman Group is funded by twelve member companies: Asahi UK, Aston Manor Cider, Bacardi Limited UK, Brown-Forman UK; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Carlsberg UK; Diageo GB; Heineken UK; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Pernod Ricard UK, Thatchers Cider and SHS Drinks.
- A high-resolution image of Karpackie 9% is available on request.