Company: Global Brands Ltd
[The] name and can design [is] clearly designed to appeal to under 18s and it’s not clear it’s alcoholic
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(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 explained that all of its brand packaging was designed to be compliant with industry and regulatory requirements. The company also stated that this was the first complaint it had received about Hoola Hooch since its launch in March 2016.
In response to the complainant’s claim that the product did not clearly communicate the alcoholic nature of the drink with absolute clarity, the company stated that not only was the alcoholic nature of the product absolutely clear, it considered the product labelling to be market leading in terms of its compliance. The company set out a number of reasons why it believed this was the case:
- The product name ‘Hooch’, by definition, is a slang word for alcohol;
- the Hooch brand, which launched in 1995, is well-known amongst the general public as an alcoholic product;
- the front label clearly describes the product as an ‘alcoholic passion fruit and mango brew’. The word ‘brew’ is also a descriptor for an alcoholic drink;
- the 4% alcohol by volume (ABV) is marked on the front and reverse of the can along with the number of units in the container and complies with EU labelling regulations;
- the 440ml can is synonymous with alcohol and is used almost exclusively by alcoholic products;
- the cans are sold almost exclusively in the alcohol aisle of stores or at events which operate age-verification before purchase.
The company then addressed the complainant’s assertion that the name and can design were designed to appeal to under-18s. The company explained that the name ‘Hoola’ had been used in reference to a ‘Hula’ which was a traditional Polynesian colourful dress and native dance which conveyed the exotic nature of the drink’s flavour. The brand had deliberately been spelt with two o’s to replicate the ‘Hooch’ branding and was therefore a play on words. The company stated that the geometric patterns and shapes used on the can design were indicative of current adult fashion trends, and cited examples used by Roberto Cavalli and Issey Miyake. The company went on to say that while the colourways were bright and vibrant they were in keeping with many other drinks on the market. The illustrations used for the mango and passion fruit flavours were not caricatures and the design featured no illustrations that would appeal to minors. The company also explained that the typeface was purposefully written in jagged font to reflect the adult nature of the brand.
The company concluded that all of its products were designed to appeal to individuals 18 and over.
The Panel’s assessment:
The Panel considered the product packaging carefully and noted that the ABV appeared three times on the can, along with the wording ‘alcoholic passion fruit and mango brew’ which also appeared three times on the product packaging. The Panel recognised that the words ‘hooch’ and ‘brew’ could also be classed as words used to describe alcohol and noted that when the product was facing forward there were four alcoholic descriptors in the primary field of vision (ABV, ‘alcoholic’, ‘hooch’ and ‘brew’). The Panel concluded that in respect of compliance with rule 3.1 the product packaging went above the minimal compliance level in communicating the alcoholic nature of the product with absolute clarity and accordingly did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.1.
The Panel then discussed whether the product had a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel noted the colourful patterned design of the can. The Panel stated that they had made it clear in previous decisions that bright colours alone were not necessarily problematic under the Code and that it was the overall impression conveyed by a product which would determine compliance under rule 3.2(h). In this instance, the Panel noted that the can was predominantly black in its design, and that there were no other design elements of the packaging which they considered would have a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel also acknowledged the company’s assertion that the name ‘Hoola’ was intended to reflect the tropical flavour of the drink, rather than replicate the name of a popular children’s snack brand. The Panel agreed that the name was a result of creative marketing designed to link the tropical flavour to the ‘Hooch’ brand. Accordingly, the Panel found that the product did not have a particular appeal to under-18s and did not find it in breach of Code rule 3.2(h), or any other aspect of the Code.
Finally, the Panel was glad to see a measured and considered response from the company.
Action by the Company:
No further action required.