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Company: Fourpure Brewing Company
Breach: Yes
Final Decision: 14 November 2019

Considered under the 6th Edition of the Code.

Complaint summary

“Although there are positive cues on the can, the imagery and name on the product do not provide absolute clarity that this is an alcoholic product.

This product has a particular appeal to under – 18s. First of all, the front of the packaging shows heaps of oranges, which makes an association with orange juice. This association is further strengthened by the brand name ‘Juicebox’, which can easily be interpreted by children as a juice drink or an orange carbonated soft drink (CSD). The typical packaging for CSDs is a can, which in this case can further mislead the younger audience that it is not an alcoholic drink but a soft drink.”.

Complainant

Zenith Global (as part of the independent audit of the Sixth Edition of the Code 2019)

Decision

Under Code paragraph 3.1:        

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

NOT UPHELD

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

UPHELD

The company’s submission

The company began by explaining the background to the company. They said Fourpure was set up 6 years ago by brothers Dan and Tom, who shared an enthusiasm for flavourful modern beers including IPAs. The company stated Juicebox had been sold since March 2016 and had been a consistent top selling brand. The company said they had never received any complaints from consumers or regulators and that no retailers had suggested the packaging was particularly appealing to under-18s or that it was insufficiently clear the product was a beer. The company stated they were surprised the product had been identified as potentially non-compliant.

The company stated it took compliance responsibilities very seriously, including the responsibility to ensure that it was abundantly clear that the product was alcoholic. The company said they were particularly mindful of this responsibility in relation to 330ml cans because of their historic association with soft drinks, which they noted the Independent Complaints Panel had commented on in numerous rulings.

The company explained they designed the can with elements intended to make it absolutely clear that the product was a beer, including:

  • prominent use of ‘IPA’ in bright yellow text, which they said was particularly obvious by breaking with the overall muted blue/orange colour scheme;
  • beer imagery including extensive use of hops and a prominent stylised grain image;
  • references to brewing on the front and back of the packaging;
  • pregnancy consumption advisory logo;
  • drink responsibly messaging; and
  • description of the brewing process on the back of the product.

The company highlighted that, when it considered Cwtch, the Panel decided the word ‘ale’ on the front and ‘beer’ on the side of the pack was sufficient. The company stated they had exceeded this threshold with the use of ‘IPA’ on the front, references to brewing on the front and back, and the imagery reinforcing the alcoholic nature. The company stated the references to beer and brewing were more extensive than those on Cwtch’s packaging.

The company commented on the complaint that the overall impression suggested Juicebox was juice or a carbonated soft drink.  They highlighted the growth in craft beer over the last ten years and said one of the characteristics of the category was a distinctive style of packaging. The company said this typically which used the following elements, which they said the Panel had noted in their decisions on Gamma Ray and Beavertown Neck Oil:

  • 330ml cans;
  • stylized graphical representation, often with what the Panel had described as adult themes reminiscent of graphic novel art;
  • nonliteral, creative and imaginative names such as Neck Oil;
  • extensive beer terminology such as “IPA”; and
  • a limited range of colours.

The company noted the Panel had found that the Beavertown Neck Oil label, which they said contained all these elements, acceptable because it was clear that the product was alcoholic. The company said the Panel had recognised this style of packaging had come to define the craft beer category, and that UK consumers now recognised that this style of packaging as being distinctively associated it with craft beer and not soft drinks.

The company said Juicebox used all the typical craft beer elements listed, and highlighted the use of oranges and hops, with people and a retro boombox depicted in a distinctive stylised way reminiscent of graphic novels. The company also stated the product used a limited colour palette of orange and green and a nonliteral name, which was intended to be humorous (because it was in a can not a box). The company said consumers were unlikely to e confuse Juicebox with a soft drink.  They said these points would be particularly clear to those shoppers most likely to see the packaging, i.e. beer purchases, because those shoppers were familiar with these cues.

The company stated the name Juicebox was a typical example of a nonliteral craft beer name. The company explained the name was designed to highlight and indicate the intense citrus flavours; the product was enhanced by the inclusion of citrus zest. The company highlighted other craft beers which referenced juice in their names.

The company said citrus terminology was not just a craft beer category but was used in other alcoholic drinks that had been considered by the Panel, including ‘Jaffa Cake Vodka Drink’ and ‘Orange Breezer’.  They noted the Panel had concluded in those cases that citrus terminology was not inherently problematic, provided it was sufficiently clear that the product was an alcoholic beverage.  The company explained they had made great efforts to communicate this to consumers and they submitted the name Juicebox was unlikely to mislead consumers into thinking the product was not alcoholic.

The company then addressed the concern that images of oranges and the orange colour combined with the name could have particular appeal to under 18s. The company said that, in its ruling on Orange Breezer, the Panel accepted that citrus flavours, including orange, had a broad appeal to adults and children and that the use of the colour orange was acceptable to illustrate flavour. The company said the Panel had said in that ruling that the shad of orange was not ‘artificially bright’.  The company said the Juicebox design also had muted orange colours to illustrate a citrus flavour, which they said was in line with the Orange Breezer ruling.

The company believed that, although there appeared to be no specific guidance or rulings on the issue, if the use of orange as a colour was acceptable then it must also be acceptable to use of oranges. The company argued that would be particularly so when the imagery was presented as a stylised adult design rather than childlike imagery.  The company argued that the Panel’s decisions on the Flamingo, Pixie and Unicorn Tears gin products confirmed this, because the Panel made clear in those decisions that mature stylised imagery reminiscent of art deco design would signal that the product was appropriate for adults and that, by contrast, cartoon-like imagery would signal it was appropriate for children. The company said the imagery used on Juicebox was stylised imagery with a simplicity and flowing lines, similar to those associated with art deco, and they had deliberately interspersed the orange imagery with imagery of hops to remind consumers the product was an orange flavoured beer that was alcoholic and not suitable for under 18s.

The Panel’s assessment

The Panel first considered whether the packaging communicated the product’s alcoholic nature with absolute clarity.  The Panel noted that the product was labelled with “5.9% vol” but that this was presented in an unusual format, so that consumers had to turn the can on its side to read the information about the ABV and the unit content.  The Panel noted that the front of the can included references to brewing and described the product as “Citrus IPA”.  The Panel thought the busy design made it difficult to read and the “Juicebox” product name was more prominent than the “Citrus IPA” description.  When it considered the overall impression conveyed to the average consumer, however, the Panel concluded the product was clearly an alcoholic drink.  It did not uphold the complaint under rule 3.1.

The Panel then considered whether the product had a particular appeal to under-18s.  The Panel considered that the illustrations of oranges were not, in themselves, particularly childlike, although it thought the stylised representation of an orange slice as the sun with rays of sunlight was more childlike.

The Panel considered that “Juicebox” was suggestive of the fruit juice cartons that were commonly given to children in lunch boxes; it considered that the name was not inherently problematic but that the allusion to a product often associated with children meant the packaging would have to work harder than other products to avoid having particular appeal to under-18s.  The Panel noted the colour scheme was muted and considered that no single element of the design had a particular appeal to children when seen in isolation.  It considered, however, that the combination of “Juicebox” together with the images of fruit and stylised sunshine imagery had a particular appeal to children.  The Panel was concerned that children might see the product in the fridge in their home and think it was a juice drink, and considered that the “Citrus IPA” description was not clear enough to dispel that impression to a child who would be unfamiliar with beer categories.  The Panel therefore upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).

Action by Company

Working with the Advisory Service.