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A recent complaint about Tiny Rebel’s ‘Cwtch’ was examined by the Independent Complaints Panel and upheld. A copy of the full decision is available here.

The complainant, a member of the public, expressed concern that the product looked like a fizzy energy drink and could appeal to teenagers. The complainant stated that the product’s appearance could lead to underage drinking of alcoholic drinks.

Reviewing the product in detail, the Panel noted:

  • The ABV was displayed on the front of the can and the use of white text on a black background made it easily identifiable to consumers.
  • Similar font and colours had been used for the product descriptor ‘Welsh Red Ale’ which further reinforced the alcoholic nature of the contents and meant that the product was unlikely to be confused with a soft drink.
  • The use of a cartoon teddy bear on the front of the can, the use of a bubble font for the product name and the use of bright primary colours on the packaging were problematic when considered together.

In conclusion, the Panel believed that the front of the can of ‘Cwtch’ sufficiently conveyed the alcoholic nature of the product and therefore did not uphold the complaint under Code rule:

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

However, the Panel considered that the presence of the teddy bear on the front of the can, coupled with the use in the design of a bubble font and bright primary colours, meant that the product had particular appeal to under 18s and they therefore upheld the complaint under Code rule:

3.2(h) A drink, its packaging and promotional material should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.

A previous design of the same product was also upheld by the Panel in December 2017 for its appeal to under-18s. While expressing regret at the impact this would have for the producer, the Panel highlighted that the Portman Group advisory service had recommended that the teddy bear be removed from the front of the can. It was therefore regrettable that their advice was not followed. The Panel also noted that much of the other guidance had been acted upon including removing the spray cans and graffiti and enhancing the visibility of the ABV – both of which were welcome improvements.

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

“It is highly unusual for the Panel to uphold a product twice within a two-year period but unfortunately they felt there remains a significant risk that the design, although amended, has particular appeal to under-18s. We urge all producers to make use of the free advisory service and to give great thought and care to the use of immature imagery and brand logos on the front label of an alcoholic drink.”

Responding to the decision, the complainant said, “I would like to thank the Portman group for what in my opinion is the correct outcome. It is very sad that this case was raised in the first place I would like a more responsible approach when considering product design.”

A Tiny Rebel spokesperson said, “At Tiny Rebel we have always been committed to ensuring our beers are labelled and marketed responsibly. We appreciate all the work Portman Group put in to regulate the industry. However, we believe that on this occasion Portman Group have made a decision based not on facts but based on the opinion of the 10 people on the independent complaints panel.”

ENDS

For more information please contact: Nicola Bates and Anna Liveing

0207 290 1463 or 07719 324021 or comms@portmangroup.org.uk

Notes to editors:

  1. The full decision from the Independent Complaints Panel is available on the Portman Group’s website.
  2. 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.
  3. This complaint was considered under the fifth edition of the Code of Practice. Complaints received after 23rd September 2019 are subject to the rules in the sixth edition.
  4. The Panel, which hears complaints, is chaired by Jenny Watson CBE. The other members of the Panel are: David Macdonald, Angela McNab, Rosalie Weetman, Jon Collins, Graeme Mckenzie, Claire Fowler, Daniel Jourdan and Rachel Childs. More information on the Panel can be found
  5. 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.
  6. 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. Email: advice@portmangroup.org.uk.
  7. The Portman Group is the alcohol industry regulator. It is funded by its eight member companies: Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands UK; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Carlsberg UK; Diageo GB; Heineken UK; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Molson Coors Brewing Company UK; Pernod Ricard UK.

An image of Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch is available on request.