Company: Lost and Grounded Brewers Ltd
Final Decision: 14 November 2019
Considered under the 6th Edition of the Code.
“I’d like to make a complaint about two beers by Lost and Grounded. I saw them in Waitrose yesterday (4th Sept) and felt that they were likely to be of strong appeal to children, breaching rule 3.2(h) of the Code.
They both feature anthropomorphic, slightly cartoony animals. The Running With Sceptres can features a parade of these animals very prominently, and the poses seem very much inspired by children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. The Keller Pils beer had fewer animals on it, but nevertheless for me the cutesy animal in a rowing boat made an instant association with children’s classic The Wind in the Willows.”.
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.2 (h)
A drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not have a particular appeal to under-18s
The company’s submission
The company first addressed the claim that the products had strong appeal to children. The company stated they disagreed with the complaint; there were numerous factors which reduced the likelihood of children trying to purchase or being attracted to the products. The company said there were numerous examples of the industry using branding assets like theirs.
The company explained the background of the brewery; they took inspiration from the tradition of Belgian brewing, which they explained was a prominent part of Belgium’s history and folklore. The company pointed to illustrations used by other well-known brewers. The company stated they were a young company, three years old, with this branding developed over 6 months between 2015 and 2016). The company stated the branding was produced by an independent freelance illustrator taking inspiration from the company’s values. The company stated all were original works of art and the labels told personal stories or the company’s ethos, all with humble, kind and inclusive meanings behind them.
The company highlighted the product descriptions on their website:
‘Keller Pils: Sometimes the simple things in life are the best. We take Pilsner malt from Germany and combine with three traditional hop varieties – Magnum, Perle and Hallertauer Mittelfruh – to produce a clean, unfiltered, Hop Bitter Lager Beer. 4.8% ABV. 6.5 EBC. 34 IBU.
The company said they had never targeted children and only advertised in niche publications targeted at adult food and beverage customers. The company also said their products had predominately been sold in on-trade environments to licensed premises.
The company said they ran a socially responsible company and had been a Living Wage accredited business since their inception. The company highlighted local charities they had supported: Fare Share West, Caring in Bristol, Food Cycle and Breast Cancer UK. The company stated they have never received a complaint despite both products appearing on national TV and in national weekly publications. The company also highlighted that, despite +8,100 Instagram, 5,750 Twitter and 3,300 Facebook followers, they had never received a complaint.
The company stated only a minority of their volume had been sold in Waitrose (<10%) and was sold solely in the alcohol section. The company highlighted they had not sold products to other large multiple retailers. The company explained that the price of £2.50 (Keller Pils) and £2.60 (Running with Sceptres) were two of the most expensive lagers in Waitrose, and the premium price appealed to adults and not children.
The company stated that the drinks were sold in 440ml cans, differentiating them from sizes used by soft or energy drink companies. The company highlighted the beer terminology used to label the front and back including the phrase “Hop Bitter Lager Beer”. The company said the alcoholic content was clearly legible in large font on the label, and the name Lost and Grounded Brewers was on the side, indicating they were a beer company.
The company stated the labels featured artistic illustrations, not cartoons; they said cartoons were animated, with developed stories and typically designed for children, not a singular label or artwork. The company explained the branding was colourful yet adult, as they were extremely detailed, layered and nuanced. The company also explained the cans had matte finishes with considered tones to appeal to adult consumers, not bright colours and a glossy finish which might be more likely to attract children.
The company said illustrations and animals or other characters used for beer branding were not unique to Lost and Grounded Brewers. The company gave examples of other beer producers who used images of animals, unique characters or illustrations on their labels.
The company said they disagreed with the complaint and that their reasoning was based on the retail environment, packaging, label format and artwork. The company reiterated the use of illustrations or special characters was not unique to Lost and Grounded and was well established in beer branding across the industry.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel acknowledged the producer’s view that the retail environment and price point would prevent children from buying Keller Pils, but considered that the Code meant drinks should not have particular appeal to under-18s regardless of the retail environment. The Panel considered that the rule covered the impact of packaging on children who might encounter it in their homes, for example, and not merely the risk that a child might buy a product by mistake.
The Panel noted the packaging used muted colours and a matte finish which at first glance gave an adult feel to the product. The Panel considered that the illustration had a storybook feel and that the image of a hippo in a rowing boat could be seen as reminiscent of children’s books. The Panel considered, however, that the character in the rowing boat was relatively small within the overall image and it was not in any way prominent. The Panel thought the overall impression was retro. While it acknowledged that retro storybook imagery could appeal to today’s children, the Panel considered that, in this case, the label showed a stylised landscape in a graphic style, using muted colours and without any prominent elements that had particular appeal to under-18s. Accordingly, it did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
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