Company: AB Inbev
Final Decision: 13 March 2014
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
Leffe Blonde [were] considered to be in potential breach of Code rule 3.1, which states:
3.1. The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
Most significantly the label lacks sufficient information in the English language and as such does not communicate the alcoholic nature with absolute clarity. “Belgian beer” is written on both corners of the front label but in German and French. The ABV and unit information are given on the back label but in a small font.
The Portman Group acting in lieu of complainant.
Under Code paragraph 3.1
The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
The company’s submission
The company said it was surprised by the complaint given that Leffe had been on the market for over a decade with no suggestion that the product packaging breached Code rule 3.1. Nevertheless, the company commissioned a market research company to conduct a survey to measure consumer understanding of the Leffe packaging. The methodology included an online interview of a sample of 2047 UK adults aged over 18 years of age. The research appeared to show that no respondents thought that Leffe was a soft drink; furthermore, the research appeared to show that 82% of respondents understood ‘biere’ or ‘bier’ to mean ‘beer’.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel felt it was essential to consider the overall impression conveyed by taking into account the product as a whole, together with information provided on the front and back labels.
The Panel noted that the front label did not contain the alcohol strength statement, nor did it contain the name of the alcohol type in English.
Despite this, the Panel considered the product packaging contained some positive visual alcohol cues:
- shape and colour of the bottle;
- cork stopper;
- overall design;
- references to ‘beer’ in the narrative on the back label;
- health information on the back label; and
- the words ‘biere’ and ‘bier’ on the front label.
In addition to the positive cues there were no obvious negative cues, i.e. the front label was not overly fussy or busy, nor did it contain imagery that might detract from the alcohol message.
Although the Panel noted that the front label did not contain an alcohol strength statement and the alcohol type on the front label was not in English, the Panel felt the positive cues (as mentioned above) were sufficient so as not to confuse a consumer as to the nature of the product contents. Also, the alcohol type on the front label, albeit in a foreign language, so closely resembled the word ‘beer’ that consumers would understand it as ‘beer’. In light of this, the Panel concluded that the packaging of Leffe did not breach Code rule 3.1.
Action by company
No action required.