Company: The Cornish Cyder Farm
Final Decision: 7 February 2012
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
I am confused as to whether the current labeling of the Healey’s bottled “Texan-Style Hard Cyder” breaks any of the codes of the Portman Group. My concern comes from the fact that here in the East Midlands (and in much of the UK I guess?) the term “hard” is frequently related to being tough, violent and aggressive. On this label the word ‘hard’ is in a red font which may also suggest aggression. Will the impressionable younger drinker of this cider feel that he/she will be tough and ‘hard’ by drinking ‘hard’ cider? Of course in the USA, “hard cider” is alcoholic cider, while “cider” is simply apple-juice. But will young UK drinkers get that message?
A member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.2(a)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have the alcoholic strength, relatively high alcoholic content, or the intoxicating effect, as a dominant theme.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(b)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social behaviour.
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 the product had been inspired by Texan heritage and the company’s Cornish drinks producing roots. It had adopted the American terminology of ‘hard’ cider for what is known as ‘cider’ in the UK and used the hot, dry and hard desert environment as the graphical theme for the label. The company also explained that the back label clearly explained and defined the term ‘hard’ cider to refer to an alcoholic drink. Furthermore, the company felt that to suggest that under-18s would not understand the ‘hard’ cider message as defining an alcoholic product was unreasonable and not supported by any evidence-based research.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel acknowledged that there was an explanation on the back label explaining the use of ‘hard’ cider as referring to an alcoholic drink. The Panel felt, however, that this explanation was not relevant to UK consumers to whom ‘cider’ exclusively refers to an alcoholic drink. Furthermore, the Panel considered that, while in some UK regions, the term ‘hard’ could imply a person who was violent and aggressive, this term was not universally recognised, whereas ‘hard’ in the context of an alcoholic drink had direct associations with strong alcohol thereby making alcoholic strength the dominant theme on the packaging. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint against the product under Code paragraph 3.2(a) and did not uphold the complaint under Code paragraph 3.2(b).
The Panel then considered whether there was anything on the packaging which would lead the product to have a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel felt that overall the product did not have a particular appeal to under-18s and accordingly did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
Action by Company
The company agreed to consult the Portman Group’s Advisory Service.