Disaronno International UK Ltd
“I have stumbled across “Engine” gin on my recent Tesco shop and I am shocked and appalled about its design and open link to driving. The oil can design plus using phrases like “fuel the dream” are highly inappropriate and not something the alcohol industry should be doing.
The packaging is designed to replicate an oil can and not an alcoholic drink. The website and online material only continues this message and is pushing a fuel for car performance rather than an alcoholic brand. The engine logo on the front of the can also reflects a car performance drink rather than a gin. The picture below taken from their website clearly links the brand to driving and a petrol station.
I alongside thousands others have been directly impacted by drink driving incidents and to see this brand lean into it and openly encourage links to driving throughout the brand is disgusting. I believe this brand to be linking itself to driving and therefore a link to drink driving, the use of an oil can and car imagery is not something that a brand should be able to do as well as being very irresponsible.
The packaging is also very gimmicky and looks to be targeting a younger market and looks more like a toy than an alcoholic brand I have included the links to the store and engine webpage below
The use of bright colours and a can do not reflect an alcoholic drink and more reflects a child’s drink. The language used about fuelling the dream is also something that would encourage under age drinkers to purchase this brand. The tag line of “fuel the dream” encourages a younger audience to try the brand in a similar way that red bull is consumed. Using words like pure organic gin also sounds like it has health benefits to consumption.
The use of the language of fuelling the dream is not something that an alcoholic brand should be able to use. It hints at the liquid helping you be a better person. Engine is also heavily linked to the motoring industry and a heavy link to drink driving.”
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.1
The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(e)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest that consumption of the drink can lead to social success or popularity.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(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 as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(j)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest that the product has therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood or behaviour.
The company’s submission
Engine S.r.l (the manufacturer of Engine Organic Gin) and Disaronno International UK Ltd (the UK distributor) submitted a joint response to the complaint and stated from the outset that while it took all complaints seriously it did not agree with the basis of the complaint.
The company explained that Engine Organic Gin was created by the company’s founder and was distilled using organic ingredients which paid tribute to traditional Italian rosolios famous in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy. The design celebrated the imagery of oil and fuel cars, evoking nostalgia for the 1970’s, using a deep red colour to pay homage to classic cars of that era.
The company stated that Engine Organic Gin was launched in the UK in 2021 and was both critically and commercially successful. The company explained that Engine Organic Gin was distributed across multiple territories worldwide and that it had received no complaints since its launch. Furthermore, Engine Organic Gin had been widely praised by consumers and experts, winning numerous awards for the products quality and packaging design.
The company reiterated that it had not received any indication or complaint from either industry stakeholders or consumers that the packaging did not make clear the alcoholic nature of the product; encouraged drink driving, appealed to young people, or suggested that the product had therapeutic qualities.
Addressing the complaint under Code rule 3.1, the company stated that the alcoholic nature of Engine Organic Gin had been communicated with absolute clarity. The company explained that online retailers listed the product as Engine Organic Gin 700Ml, and in retail stores it was placed in the alcoholic drinks section. The company further explained that it had complied with the Portman Group’s guidance on Code rule 3.1 on the drinks label. The word ‘Gin’ appeared prominently, in the design’s largest letters on the front of the packaging and the word ‘Engine’ was stylised with ‘gin’ emphasised in clear white italic on a red background. The company also explained that the front label included ‘Organic Gin’ in the centre of the packaging in a white font against a blue background. The alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of the product was also clearly stated on the front of the packaging. On the back of the label, the company highlighted that the product included the ABV, a pregnancy warning, number of units per container/typical serve and the list of ingredients, all of which were typically found on alcoholic drinks labelling.
The company explained it did not consider the packaging to be novel, as several other gins packaged in similar oil type containers, were available on the market. However, the company explained that if the design were to be considered novel, the alcoholic nature of the drink was communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity, nonetheless. Referencing a previous case regarding CollaGin, which was not upheld by the Panel under Code rule 3.1, the company noted the similarity in placement of positive alcohol cues on the packaging of Engine Organic Gin. The company therefore considered that there was no ambiguity to the alcoholic nature of the drink.
In response to the complaint under Code rule 3.2(f) the company explained it did not condone or encourage drink-driving, nor was there any such messaging on the packaging or in wider brand marketing materials. On the contrary, all marketing materials contained the message ‘NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE’. The company stated that the shape of the oil can container in isolation, or when considered in combination with the slogan ‘fuel the dream’, did not suggest a consumer should drink and drive.
The company explained that ‘fuel the dream’ was a slogan which derived from the founder’s vision to be ceaseless in pursuit of one’s dreams. ‘Fuel’ was also a reference to the shape of the bottle and a play on the vehicle theme of the brand. However, none of the elements included on the packaging encouraged consumers to drive after consuming Engine Organic Gin.
Referencing a previous case considered by the Panel regarding Cronk Y Voddy under Code rule 3.2(f), the company noted that inclusion of driving paraphernalia was not inherently problematic, and that Engine Organic Gin did not include express reference to driving or use driving-related imagery. The company explained that responsible alcohol consumption was at the heart of Engine Organic Gin’s brand, including company policies built around a zero tolerance for drink-driving. Additionally, the company explained that Engine Organic Gin included a drink responsibly message on the rear label of the packaging, and that Disaronno International UK Ltd was also a member of Drinkaware. The company stated that the oil can shape of the container and the reference to engines was not an express or implied reference to driving, nor did it constitute an association with drink-driving. The company explained that it did not have any associations with the motor industry within the UK and explained that it did not believe that there was any reason that consumers would equate Engine Organic Gin with immoderate or irresponsible consumption, such as drink-driving.
The company noted that the complainant also raised concerns regarding the website for Engine Organic Gin. The company explained that the website built on the vintage theme of the brand and featured a garage of the era which was consistent with the oil can shape of the container. The ‘Gin Station’ garage was in keeping with the wider brand theme and was not dissimilar to UK petrol stations which also sold alcohol. The company maintained that the website did not in any capacity encourage drink-driving or other irresponsible behaviours.
The company addressed the concerns raised regarding Code rule 3.2(h) and disagreed that the packaging was ‘gimmicky’ but rather innovative and award winning. The company stated that it was not unusual for producers to take inspiration from real life objects when designing containers as evidenced by a variety of spirits available to consumers on the market. The company stated that it was unaware of any popular children’s toy which was in the shape of a 1970’s engine oil can, and it was therefore unlikely to be appealing to, or resonate with, children.
The company explained that the type face was unlikely to resonate with under-18s as it was not in a bubble writing font, nor did it use text with thick bold black lines which could have particular appeal to children. While the colours used on the label could be considered bright, the company clarified that it did not employ highly contrasting or luminated colours. The colours used in the design were white, red and blue, including a red box logo which was not an unusual design for alcohol drinks packaging. The overall design and shape of the container was mature and in connection with vehicles of the 1970s, to appeal to an adult audience.
The company stated that the slogan ‘fuelling the dream’ was unlikely to have particular appeal to young people and explained that the average consumer was likely to understand the slogan as hyperbole. While the company disagreed with the comparison between Engine Organic Gin and a caffeinated soft drink, it noted that caffeinated soft drinks are often used as mixers with spirits and are unlikely to have a particular appeal to under-18s. Additionally, the company stated that the slogan should be taken in context of the drink which was in the shape of an oil can, which was unlikely to have particular appeal to children.
The company also explained that its website required age verification in order to access it, and it carefully targeted its online advertising at adults.
Finally, the company addressed the concerns raised under Code rule 3.2(j). The company explained that the word ‘organic’ did not suggest that the drink had health benefits but was an accurate reference to the high-quality organic nature of its ingredients. The company disagreed that the slogan ‘fuels the dream’ suggested that consumption of the gin could help consumers achieve their dreams. The company noted that no language used on the packaging stated that a consumer needed to drink the product in order to achieve their dreams, nor did the line suggest the alcohol could improve an individual’s capabilities or faculties. The company stated that the average consumer was unlikely to interpret the line to have such meaning and that there were no direct or implied claims that Engine Organic Gin had any therapeutic qualities. Instead, the slogan related to the oil can shape of the container and the gin was fuel for a cocktail.
The company reiterated that the branding for Engine Organic Gin clearly reflected that alcohol should be consumed safely and responsibly, and that it took its social and legal obligations seriously. The company explained that it had implemented robust practices to ensure that the branding was innovative and fully complied with the Portman Group Code.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel discussed if any additional Code rules should be considered. The Panel noted that the packaging included the line ‘fuel the dream’ and that there was merit in reviewing the label under Code rule 3.2(e) to determine if any part of the packaging, directly or indirectly, suggested consumption of the product could lead to social success.
The Panel considered the novel container which resembled a traditional oil can and that it was an unusual style of product packaging for gin. The Panel noted that the front of the product included the name ‘Engine’ in large white font on a red background and that within this, the word ‘GIN’ was emphasised in italic font. While the Panel considered that this was not overtly clear as denoting the alcoholic content of the drink in and of itself, the words ‘Organic Gin’ also appeared in prominently sized white font on a blue background with the product’s alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) also depicted on the front. In addition to this, the back label included ingredients which included ‘alcohol’ and ‘distilled gin’, alongside responsible drinking messaging, the product’s ABV, a pregnancy warning, Drinkaware signposting and the unit content per container and serve. Whilst the Panel noted that the packaging was novel in design, the numerous positive alcohol cues were presented clearly on both the front and back label and sufficiently communicated the drink’s alcoholic nature with absolute clarity. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.1.
The Panel discussed whether anything on the packaging, including the line ‘fuel the dream’, suggested that consumption of the drink would lead to social success. After careful consideration, the Panel considered that ‘fuel the dream’ was likely to be understood as an internal aspiration, as opposed to directly, or indirectly, suggesting that consumption of the product would aid socialisation. As there were no other elements on the label which suggested consumption of the gin would make a consumer more popular, or contribute towards social success, the Panel concluded that Engine Organic Gin was not in breach of Code rule 3.2(e).
The Panel discussed the company’s response and acknowledged that Engine Organic Gin created an association with motor vehicles as the packaging was designed in the style of a 1970’s oil can and included an engine symbol on the front of the packaging, which was typically found on the dashboard of a car as an engine warning light. Furthermore, to understand the marketing context of the product, the Panel had reviewed the product website which was designed to resemble a petrol station where consumers could purchase the drink through a virtual kiosk. The Panel noted that product’s online marketing further enhanced a link between the brand and motor vehicles.
The Panel discussed the wording of Code rule 3.2(f), in particular the emphasis on ‘encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness’. The Panel discussed the interpretation that a link between motor vehicles and alcohol was not necessarily prohibited by the Code rule, nor was it prevented by the spirit of the Code, as the wording was intended to prevent alcohol marketing from irresponsible consumption, including drink-driving, as opposed to preventing any association with motor vehicles.
The Panel discussed similar case precedents including Cronk Y Voddy, which had depicted a driver’s eye-view of someone driving a bike down a road, and Disco Forklift Truck, which depicted a character dancing on a forklift truck. In both cases, the Panel noted that while the decisions considered a motor vehicle and machinery respectively, the decisions related to the depiction of dangerous behaviour which was absent in this case.
The Panel then considered whether any part of the name or label of Engine Organic Gin encouraged consumers to engage in irresponsible consumption such as drinkdriving. The Panel noted that there was nothing on the label that suggested the product should be consumed before driving or in any other irresponsible manner. The Panel reminded producers to take care when referencing cars or other motor vehicles in alcohol marketing to ensure that there was no encouragement, directly or indirectly, to drink and drive. However, when taking all elements of the product packaging into consideration, the Panel concluded that there was nothing on the packaging which directly or indirectly encouraged a consumer to drink irresponsibly. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.2(f).
The Panel discussed whether Engine Organic Gin was likely to have a particular appeal to under-18s. Although the container was novel in design, the Panel noted it did not resemble a child’s toy or appear to be toy like. The Panel considered that the resemblance to a 1970’s era oil can was unlikely to be familiar to those born after the 1990’s and was unlikely to have a particular appeal to children. The Panel noted that the absence of child-like illustrations or use of a font style, which could have a particular appeal to under-18s. In light of this, the Panel concluded that the product packaging was unlikely to have particular appeal to under-18s and accordingly did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
Finally, the Panel discussed whether any part of the packaging of Engine Organic Gin suggested the drink had therapeutic qualities, could enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood and behaviour. The Panel considered that the line ‘fuel the dream’ was fairly ambiguous in its meaning when considered in isolation and could imply that consumption of the drink could help a consumer achieve a ‘dream’. The Panel noted that the back label included the sentence ‘sage and lemon is a traditional remedy to cure a sour mood’. The Panel discussed the wording and noted that it directly suggested that consumption of the drink could ‘cure’ a consumer’s bad mood by incorporating these ingredients, thus changing an individual’s mood. The Panel was particularly concerned that the suggestion of a ‘cure’ could directly appeal to those with poor mental health who may be more susceptible to substance misuse and concluded it was inappropriate for an alcoholic drink to directly suggest that it could provide a therapeutic quality. The Panel considered this wording alongside the line ‘fuel the dream’ and considered that the elements combined also suggested the drink had a therapeutic quality. The Panel therefore concluded that the product packaging suggested the drink could change mood and had a therapeutic quality, and upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(j).
Action by Company:
Made amends to product packaging to bring in line with the Code.