Lost Brewing Co
”Lost Brewing Co in Cornwall has a 6.0% IPA called Loose Juice. Firstly, I believe the name violates the code, as well as the playful and immature branding appealing to under 18s. Then I saw a post on their Instagram page @lostbrewingco (screenshot attached) promoting Loose Juice as a solution to many ‘problems’ and even goes so far as to compare it to medication. I feel this should be addressed immediately. Thank you for your consideration”.
Portman Group acting in lieu of 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 or promotion should not have a particular appeal to under-18s (in the case of sponsorship, those under 18 years of age should not comprise more than 25% of the participants, audience or spectators).
The Company’s submission
The company stated that it had carefully reviewed the Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks (Code), in particular Code rule 3.2(h), and believed that Loose Juice was compliant with the required standards. The company also stated that it would not intentionally breach any aspect of the Code.
The company explained that the branding of ‘Loose Juice’ was designed to look as representative of the product as possible. The company stated that the colour of the label was the same colour as the beer and had been made to look ‘juicy’, ‘thick’ and ‘tropical’ which were common characteristics of the ‘NEIPA’ style of beer that was communicated on the front label along with the product’s 6% ABV. The company explained that it had chosen this branding style so that it appealed to consumers who favoured the NEIPA style of beer and would recognise it in a beer fridge.
The company further stated that, as a craft brewery, its beers were generally aimed at consumers in the 25+ range and this was reflected in the slightly higher price tag and quality of the product. The company explained that it did not currently produce merchandise relating to the product which further ensured that it could not be seen by anyone under-18. The company also stated that ‘Loose Juice’ was only sold at its bar and other local bottle shops in a 440ml can that was clearly displayed in a beer fridge.
The company added that it had removed the Instagram post that the complainant had referred to and had only intended for it to be construed in a satirical manner.
The Panel’s Assessment
Code rule 3.2(h)
The Panel first discussed whether the packaging had a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel noted that the product name was presented in purple bubble font on a yellow background and had been presented so that it had a ‘juicy’ look and feel. The Panel discussed the ‘particular’ aspect of Code rule 3.2(h) and acknowledged that the ‘particular appeal’ test was not one of quantity, but rather the way in which the packaging appealed to under-18s in a way that it did not with over-18s. In this context, the Panel considered the overall impression conveyed by the product and noted that the colour palette was relatively muted, and the labelling did not include any fruit imagery or cartoon illustrations which it had previously seen in similar cases. The Panel considered that whilst the bubble font may hold a certain level of appeal it was unlikely to be of particular appeal to under-18s. Therefore, when considering the product as a whole, the Panel concluded that the packaging did not have a particular appeal to under-18s and did not find the product in breach of rule 3.2(h).
Code rule 3.1
Whilst discussing whether the product complied with the Code, some Panel members were concerned that the product did not communicate its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity. The Panel therefore discussed whether the product was in breach of rule 3.1.
The Panel discussed the product name ‘Loose Juice’ and agreed that any alcoholic product which incorporated the word ‘juice’ prominently as part of the brand name needed to ensure that its alcoholic nature was communicated with absolute clarity to minimise consumer confusion. The Panel noted that the front label contained the abbreviation, ‘NEIPA’, which some understood to stand for ‘New England India Pale Ale’ but also recognised that some consumers would not be familiar with the term. The Panel noted that the front label included the name of the company, ‘Lost Brewing Co’, and the product’s alcoholic strength by volume. The Panel discussed the presentation of the product’s ABV and noted that, in the context of a product with the word ‘juice’ in the brand name, it was not completely clear as to whether the percentage referred to juice content or alcohol content. The Panel then considered the back label and noted that it featured numerous positive alcoholic cues including the product’s unit content, signposting to Drinkaware, pregnancy logo and the outdated Chief Medical Officers’ daily unit guidelines.
The Panel debated the overall impression conveyed by the product and considered the product as a whole. The Panel was concerned that the incorporation of the word ‘juice’ in the brand name on the front label could cause consumer confusion, particularly when the ABV statement did not incorporate the abbreviation ‘alc’ or the word ‘alcohol’ to provide further clarity. However, whilst the Panel considered that the front of the can could do more to convey the alcoholic nature of the product, the back label displayed numerous positive alcohol cues clearly indicating the alcoholic nature of the product. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the product was compliant with rule 3.1.
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