Company: Diageo GB
Breach: No
Final Decision: 31 January 2013

Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.

Complaint summary

I would like to raise a complaint regarding crisps now being sold under the Guinness brand. Ths (sic) is a disturbing misuse of an alchol (sic) brand on a foodstuff which has a very great appeal to children and young people. I note that the crisps are not produced by Guinness, however they have clearly endorsed the product and the product associations by allowing a use of trademark. The product is still in a marketing area (physical) which will be a draw to young people, thereby guaranteeing exposure….the marketing in this physical area cannot discriminate the viewing audience into any specific appropriate section, therefore children and young people are targeted by default, irrespective of their consumption of the product.


Member of the public.


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.


The company’s submission

The company explained that it exercised due diligence before entering into the partnership with Burt’s Chips, a partner which sat at the premium hand-cooked, more mature end of the market. It went on to explain that whilst the partnership did not involve any alcohol the company’s decision to proceed was still based on the principles of the Diageo Marketing Code which prevented any form of marketing to under-18s.

The company presented evidence form 2011, consisting of Burt’s Chips Demographic Data and a Brand & Market Intelligence Research Debrief (source: TGI). The company explained that the evidence showed that the focus group used by Burt’s was made up of consumers aged between 25 and 65 years of age as this was the target consumer group for Burt’s, and furthermore, that Burt’s considered its target consumer to be someone aged in their 30-40s. The research into the category of premium hand-cooked crisps, of which Burt’s was a key player, showed the average age of the consumer to be 42.

The Panel’s assessment

The Panel first considered whether the branded crisps were within the scope of the Code because the Code applied only to pre-packaged alcoholic drinks above 0.5% abv in strength; the crisps were Guinness flavoured but did not contain alcohol.

The Panel considered the branded crisps under Code paragraph 2.3, which states:

Branded merchandise refers to products available in the UK bearing alcoholic drinks branding which have been produced by, on behalf of, or with the permission of, an alcoholic drinks producer.

The Panel considered that the application of Code paragraph 2.3 hinged on the interpretation of the word ‘merchandise’.  The Panel felt the Guinness branding featured with greater prominence on the packaging than the Burt’s branding and therefore this was first and foremost a Guinness promotion, rather than a crisp brand promoting alcohol. Furthermore, the company had confirmed that the crisps had been produced in partnership with the crisps company; the crisps also carried the same Guinness branding that appeared on the alcoholic drinks container, including the ‘harp’ logo. In light of this, the Panel were satisfied that the crisps could be considered as branded merchandise and be subject to the Code.

The Panel then considered whether the Guinness branded Burt’s crisps had a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel acknowledged that the crisp market was very broad and their appeal was ubiquitous. Some brands were clearly aimed at under-18s, for example, through using bright packaging and novel crisp shapes, the premium, hand-cooked category was not. Therefore, an alcohol partnership with a crisps brand was not in itself in contravention of the Code.

They felt the evidence also showed that the company had chosen its partnership carefully: with a high-end brand from the ‘artisan snack’ category whose target consumer was 42 years of age. Furthermore, there was nothing on the crisp packaging itself which led Burt’s crisps to have a particular appeal to under-18s.

In light of the above factors the Panel did not find the product in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(h) or any other part of the Code.

Action by company

No action required.