Final Decision:

31 January 2019

Considered under 5th Edition of the Code.

Complaint summary

“The attached gin liqueur beverages are on sale in John Lewis at Home (Newbury).  The images appeal to children and they are on a low display stand – i.e. at child level.  I believe they are in breach of the code”.


Member of the public


Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)

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


The company’s submission

The company stated that Flamingo Tears Pink Grapefruit Gin was part of its premium spirits range with a 40% alcoholic strength by volume (abv) and a high-end price point of £40 RRP.  The company stated that although fantastical in design, the product was a high-quality juniper flavoured gin with 10 botanicals and was an exclusive product offering to John Lewis.

The company explained that the product design employed a simple black colour print with a detailed, tropical style and did not use a colour scheme that could be misconstrued as appealing to under-18s.  The company stated that Flamingo Tears had a pink hazy appearance to reflect its pink grapefruit flavour which did not appeal to children or underage drinkers.  The company explained that the product contained candarin which gave the product a shimmering effect when shaken.

The company asserted that there was no possibility that the product could be confused with a soft drink or non-alcoholic product.  The company stated that the product clearly communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity by clearly incorporating various alcoholic cues on the front and back label; according to the company:

  • the word ‘Gin’ appeared in big black font on the front label;
  • the figure 40% vol appeared in black font on the front label;
  • the back label included relevant regulatory information such as the UK pregnancy warning, unit content of the container and the old UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) daily unit guidelines.

In response to the complainant’s assertion that the product was inappropriately placed in John Lewis, the company explained that it could not control how its products were merchandised and therefore did not believe that this element of the complaint was subject to the Code.  The company expressed disappointment that the complainant’s concerns seemed to be primarily aimed at John Lewis’ placement of the product and less about the product packaging.  Despite this, the company explained that it had taken steps to encourage responsible retailing and had created a retailer advisory pack to help explain how the product should be positioned within retail environments.

The Panel’s assessment

The Panel considered the overall impression conveyed by the product packaging.  The Panel noted that the product communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity by virtue of the clear display of the word ‘Gin’ in large black font on the front label along with the ABV.  In addition to this, the back label contained the unit content of the bottle, pregnancy logo, the UK CMO’s daily unit guidelines and a tailored responsible drinking message.  The Panel also noted that the bottle shape was fairly traditional in design for a spirit and had a cork stopper, which helped contribute towards the product’s positive alcoholic cues.

The Panel considered whether the product had a particular appeal to under-18s; this was first considered in the context of the product name ‘Flamingo Tears’, and whether flamingos held a particular appeal with under-18s, over and above their appeal to adults. The Panel acknowledged that flamingos were on-trend and their use in fashion had become popular. In the Panel’s view this meant that flamingos may have some appeal to the teenage market, but not predominantly, and that their appeal was broader encompassing an adult demographic. The Panel then considered the imagery. It noted that the image was a mature, stylised black-outline illustration of a flamingo and the product font was staid. While acknowledging that the liquid had a shimmering effect and the label included references to ‘magic’ in the context of making the product shimmer, the Panel considered that, on balance, the overall design of the product, was unlikely to have a particular appeal to under-18s.

The Panel discussed the application of Code Rule 3.2(h) and agreed that while the product would have some appeal to a younger generation, it did not have a particular appeal to under-18s and accordingly did not uphold the product under Code Rule 3.2(h).

The Panel discussed the company’s response in relation to the price and placement of the product but noted that these elements were not in the remit of the Code.  However, the Panel did welcome the news that the company had created a retailer advisory pack to assist retailers in the responsible merchandising of their products.

Action by the Company

No further action required.