‘The branding of these products is designed to mislead, they are clear facsimiles of popular other products that are very obviously not alcoholic, the risk to the public is high (underage alcohol sales (energy drinks), identifying with health products (huel….) due to the intentional duplication of branding, colours & typeface’.
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.2(f)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.
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.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(j)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest that the product has therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood or behaviour.
The company’s submission
The company did not submit a response to the complaint.
The Panel’s assessment
Code rule 3.2(j)
The Panel considered whether anything on the packaging of Hwyl, directly or indirectly, suggested that the drink had a therapeutic quality as raised by the complainant. The Panel assessed the packaging and noted that Hwyl was a facsimile of Huel, a meal replacement drink that had become widely popular over the past several years. The Panel noted that Huel was a nutritionally balanced ready to drink beverage, which was intended as a meal replacement product, packaged in a 500ml bottle. The Panel noted that Huel’s product website described the product as nutritionally complete powdered food containing all essential vitamins and minerals as well as a high concentration of fibre and protein. The Panel noted that the purpose of Huel was designed for weight maintenance, as opposed to explicitly linking to weight loss, but expressed fundamental concern that an alcoholic product was linking to a nutritionally complete health product designed to be a meal replacement. The Panel noted that the branding of Huel was predominantly white, with a small wrap of colour at the top of the bottle which related to the flavour of the drink. The type face was presented in block black capitals vertically along the front of the label. The Panel considered that the branding of Hwyl, which was packaged in a 440ml can, had a similar predominantly white label, with a yellow and brown pattern along the top of the can, and the name ‘Hwyl’, which when pronounced was phonetically the same as Huel, in block capitals also appearing vertically on the front of the packaging. The Panel discussed the similarities between the design of Hwyl and Huel and considered that because the branding, design and name intentionally mirrored Huel, the alcoholic version Hwyl indirectly suggested that it could fulfil the same purpose of the original brand as a nutritionally complete meal replacement, and thus inferred the therapeutic effect that it would make a consumer healthier. While the Panel acknowledged that the packaging of Hwyl did not include any direct health claims, the product descriptor text on the company’s web page included the line ‘Our ‘Cos Jan’s Bad Enough Beers are all made with love and fun to help chase away the January blues..’. The Panel also noted that the product had been launched as part of a wider range in January, a month that in recent years had become linked to health goals and giving up certain products or types of food and drink. The Panel considered that the product’s marketing reinforced the perception that consumption of the drink could help change a consumer’s mood to chase away the January blues, and that the drink indirectly suggested that it had a therapeutic quality as a nutritionally complete meal replacement. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(j).
Code rule 3.2(f)
In the context that the packaging indirectly suggested the product had nutritional properties and mimicked a meal replacement drink, the Panel considered whether there was anything on the packaging of Hwyl which could encourage irresponsible consumption. The Panel assessed the packaging in its entirety and considered that it was socially irresponsible for an alcoholic drink to create an association with a health product known for being a meal replacement. After careful consideration of the Code rule 3.2(f) wording, and in the context of its decision under Code rule 3.2(j), the Panel considered that if a consumer believed that the product was a meal replacement, or had weight maintaining properties, this could indirectly encourage a consumer to drink it to excess in order to gain the inferred health benefits of the product. The Panel considered that a consumer may then base their alcohol consumption on the purported health benefits of the product, as opposed to making an informed consumption choice based on the amount of alcohol in the product and this, the Panel concluded, could reasonably lead to irresponsible consumption as a consumer might consume more than they otherwise would have done. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(f).
Code rule 3.2(h)
Finally, the Panel considered whether the packaging of Hwyl could have a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel noted that Huel was marketed as a ready to drink meal replacement beverage which was targeted at an adult audience as a convenient way to consume a nutritionally complete alternative to food. The Panel stated that it had not seen any evidence to support an assertion that Huel marketed to under-18s, and the brand did not, at this point, have a known strong appeal to under-18s. Given the similarity in branding, the Panel therefore concluded that Hwyl did not have a particular appeal to under-18s on the basis that it was a facsimile of Huel. The Panel then assessed the packaging in its entirety to determine if there was anything which could have a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel noted the peanut butter flapjack flavour and considered that while the sweet flavour may appeal to children, it was also likely to appeal to adults and therefore had a ubiquitous appeal. The Panel noted that the label was fairly plain with a minimal colour palette as the majority of the can was white and used a bold black straight-line font for the product name. The Panel then discussed the company’s corporate bear logo and noted previous case
precedents that reviewed its compliance under the Code (Cali Pale, Bump n’ Grind, Cherry Bomb, Clwb Tropica, Clwb Tropica Four Pack, Double 99, No Capes, Original Nuttah 2021). The Panel discussed that while the bear did not necessarily breach the Code in itself, it had the potential to appeal to under-18s depending on its size, presentation and contextual appearance. In this case, the Panel considered that in the context of the rest of the packaging, the corporate bear logo was unlikely to cause the can to have a particular appeal to under-18s. Taking the above into account, the Panel concluded that the overall impression conveyed by the packaging did not have a particular appeal to under-18s. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
Action by Company:
Product has been discontinued.