Diageo Great Britain Limited



Final Decision:

13 March 2014

Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.

Complaint summary

Alcoholic nature not communicated with absolute clarity: There is no mention of alcohol, beer or stout given on the secondary package other than underneath. The % alcohol is given but this is fairly small and is not particularly obvious.


The Portman Group (acting in lieu of complainant as part of 2012 Code Compliance Audit).


Under Code paragraph 3.1

The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.


The company’s submission

The company asserted that the narrow focus of the complaint, focussing on just two aspects of the secondary packaging and taken out of context of the pack and product as whole, ran contrary to the approach taken in Portman Group guidance which based compliance on a product taken as a whole and the general impression conveyed. The complaint overlooked the other aspects of the product packaging and labelling that, in its opinion, did make the alcoholic nature absolutely clear.  The other aspects the company referred to were:

  • The abv statement, drink responsibly and a reference to Drinkaware on the side panels of the wraparound sleeve. The company disagreed with the complainant that these indicators were fairly small and not obvious.
  • The underside of the wraparound on the back labels contained further alcohol references in the form of ‘the abv statement, health information and a reference to ‘Guinness Original Stout’. The alcoholic volume of the drink;

In addition to these points, the company stated that the product had obvious visual cues that conveyed the alcoholic nature of the product, such as, the size, shape and colour of the bottles which it felt were recognisable and strongly associated with beer.  The dominant image on the cardboard wraparound was also the Guinness logo, which in the context of the specific packaging in this case, could be used as an indicator to consumers that the Guinness 4-Pack consisted of beer.

The Panel’s assessment

The Panel felt it was essential to consider the overall impression conveyed by the Guinness Original 4 x 330ml cardboard cluster pack taking into account the product as whole, together with the information provided on the primary and secondary packaging.

The Panel determined that the secondary packaging needed to be just as clear as the primary and while they acknowledged the company’s point that the underside of the secondary packaging had alcoholic descriptors, felt that it was not in the required field of vision to contribute to the absolute clarity of the product.  The Panel also questioned why the warning that the product contained ‘barley’ was so prominent on the packaging and yet the alcoholic nature of the product did not receive the same clarity.

Despite this, the Panel considered the product packaging contained several positive visual alcohol cues:

  • shape and colour of the bottles;
  • overall design;
  • reference to alcohol volume ‘Alc. 4.2% Vol’ being more prominent than the ‘barley’ message
  • references to ‘stout’ in the narrative on the back label;
  • health information on the back label;
  • reference to the Drinkaware website and ‘Drink Responsibly’ message on the wraparound.

In addition to the positive cues there were no obvious negative cues, i.e. the front label and wraparound were not overly fussy or busy, nor did they contain imagery that might detract from the alcohol message. Furthermore, the Panel noted that the open sides of the wraparound sleeve allowed the bottles, and therefore the bottle back labels, to be visible.

The Panel also acknowledged that the product had a very strong brand name, but were clear that Portman Group guidance stated that this was not enough to be classified as an alcohol descriptor.

In light of the many positive visual cues, the Panel concluded that the packaging of Guinness Original 4 x 330ml cardboard cluster pack did not breach Code rule 3.1.

Action by company

No action required.