Retailers have been asked to stop placing orders for Bearded Brewery’s Unshaven Maiden, after it was found to have an indirect association with sexual activity and causing widespread offence. A copy of the full decision is available here.

The complaint was upheld by the Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel, resulting in the most severe sanction as a result of the producer’s failure to comply.

This release confirms recent reports surrounding the Panel’s provisional decision which was unfortunately pre-announced and leaked by the producer to the media.

The Panel considered the imagery on the label which showed a prominent, partially nude, bearded mermaid figurehead. The Panel noted that ‘maiden’ could relate to a virgin or an unmarried young woman and when considered alongside the tagline “search for the cherry’d treasure”, reinforced the innuendo linking to virginity. For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the product had an indirect association with sexual activity and upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(d).

The Panel also noted there was undue focus on the mermaid’s body which objectified the character and, to a certain extent, women more broadly. The Panel expressed concern surrounding the tagline which, combined with the image of the mermaid, resulted in sexual objectification. The Panel, therefore, concluded that the overall impression of the packaging was likely to cause widespread offence and upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.3.

A Retailer Alert Bulletin (RAB) is only issued by the Portman Group following an upheld complaint by the Panel and when the producer chooses not to comply with that decision. A RAB requests that retailers cease placing orders for the product three months after the publication date and informs wider groups about the Panel decision.

Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “It was clear that this product was damaging – promoting sexual stereotypes, in this way is out of place with modern-day societal values. Producers all have a duty to consider how their products will be perceived, not only by their local community but the wider UK market in which the products are sold. I hope Bearded Brewery takes note of the reasons outlined by the Panel for why this product clearly infringed the two Code rules in question.”