A recent complaint about The Bearded Brewery’s ‘Suicyder’ was upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel. A copy of the full decision is available here.

The complainant, a member of the public, expressed concern that the product’s name was a play on the word ‘suicide’ and used iconographic images – a rope with a noose – as well as the strapline ‘juice from the noose’. The complainant stated that the brewery was making a clear association between their cider and the act of committing suicide.

Reviewing the product in detail, the Panel noted:

  • It was inappropriate for the product name and imagery to link alcohol to suicide.
  • It was highly irresponsible to portray death by hanging in such an obvious manner, using the name ‘Suicyder’ with a prominently placed noose in combination with a human skull and the wording ‘juice from the noose’.
  • The company had stated the noose was used to reflect the owner’s previous career as a tree surgeon where a noose was used to dismantle unsafe trees. However, the Panel felt that a consumer would have to understand this inside knowledge to displace the main connotation portrayed by the product name and imagery on the front label and that most consumers would be unaware of this link.

In conclusion, the Panel believed the name ‘Suicyder’, when used in combination with imagery that depicted a hanging method of suicide, created a direct link between suicide, alcohol and dangerous behaviour.  For this reason, the complaint was upheld under Code paragraph 3.2 (b):

  • A drink, its packaging or promotion should not suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour.

Commenting on the decision by the Independent Complaints Panel, a Portman Group spokesperson said,

“The Panel felt it was wholly inappropriate to link a product’s name and imagery to the tragic act of suicide. I hope this reminds producers of their responsibilities when designing packaging and naming products. If in doubt producers are encouraged to make use of our free advisory service to avoid problems before they arise.”

The Bearded Brewery has decided not to work with the Portman Group Advisory Service to amend their product in line with the Panel’s ruling and therefore a Retailer Alert Bulletin (RAB) will be issued. A RAB requests that retailers do not re-stock products that have breached the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks.