London, 30 June 2023: Complaints made by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association against AU Vodka Bubblegum and AU Vodka GOAT have not been upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (Panel). A copy of the full decisions are available here and here.
AU Vodka Bubblegum
A complaint was made about AU Vodka Bubblegum under three Code rules which raised concerns that the product had a particular appeal to under-18s, did not clearly display its alcoholic nature, and that text on the product implied it could aid social success and popularity (Code rules 3.1, 3.2(e), 3.2(h)).
The Panel examined the product and noted there were several positive alcohol cues on the front and back label which included a responsible drinking messaging, the product’s ABV, a pregnancy warning, Drinkaware signposting and the unit content per container and serve. The Panel considered that while the brand was positioned as a premium product, there was nothing on the product packaging which suggested that consumption of the drink could help a consumer’s social success or popularity. Regarding particular appeal to under-18s, the Panel considered that the presentation of the name, and its reference to a confectionary item, was close to the line of acceptability under the Code. However, given that the text was used as part of a minimalistic design which did not incorporate any other elements that could have a particular appeal to under-18s, such as use of cartoon imagery, the Panel concluded that the presentation of the product’s flavour was not strong enough to constitute a particular appeal to under-18s. Therefore, the Panel did not uphold any aspect of the complaint.
AU Vodka GOAT
The complaint about AU Vodka GOAT was raised on the grounds that the product suggested it had therapeutic qualities and was linked to treatment for alcohol use disorder.
The complainant stated that there were two understandings of the term GOAT; the first relating to treatment for alcohol use disorder and the second as an abbreviation for ‘Greatest Of All Time’. AU Vodka stated that it had intended the latter understanding and that this definition was well known by consumers. The Panel noted that there was nothing on the packaging or accompanying marketing which suggested that the drink could be used as part of a treatment for alcohol use disorder. The Panel agreed that it was more likely that consumers would understand the abbreviation as standing for ‘Greatest Of All Time’ and that there was no suggestion by the product, or accompanying marketing which implied that drinking the product would improve someone’s mood, behaviour or physical/mental capabilities. Therefore, the Panel concluded there was no breach of the Code and did not uphold the complaint.
Commenting on the decisions, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “Time and again the Panel considers the overall impression conveyed by product packaging and in these cases it was the crux of the decisions for both. When portraying flavour, it is fair the styling can be reflected in the typography, however extra care must be taken to ensure that when a product is sweet flavoured, there are no other elements on the packaging which could have a particular appeal to under-18s. Equally, it is important to ensure that a name with a dual meaning is marketed with the appropriate intention so that it is not misconstrued. In these cases, AU Vodka has ensured that the overall impression of Bubblegum Vodka and GOAT were compliant with the Code”.
Commenting on the decisions, Head of Legal at Au Vodka, Dylan Withanage, said: “We appreciate the Panel’s thorough review of our Au Vodka Bubblegum and Au Vodka GOAT products. We are pleased that the Panel has upheld our position, having found no breach of the Code for either of these two products. We value the Panel’s insights and will continue to uphold the Code in our future offerings.”
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