Company: Lucky Drinks co.
Final Decision: 14 November 2019
“The shape of the bottle, the name and the Buddha symbol are all prominently displayed on the bottle. This may cause widespread offence to Buddhism followers who consider the Buddha as a sacred symbol to the religion. Displaying this on an alcoholic beverage is perceived as disrespectful to the faith”.
Zenith Global (as part of the independent audit of the Sixth Edition of the Code 2019)
Under Code paragraph 3.3
A drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence.
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 explained that they were an Australian company who had sold their uniquely packaged beer for over 12 years on the international market. The company stated that they owned the Lucky Beer and Lucky Buddha brands and that the bottle and the logo were trademarks in many parts of the world. The company explained that the product was produced in China, was sold internationally in restaurants and supermarkets and had been sold for 10 years in UK supermarkets and restaurants. They argued that, if their product caused serious or widespread offence, they would have heard about it: they said they had never received an email or negative comment from any government or religious agency.
The company said the bottle showed Pu Tai, the Laughing Monk, not Buddha. The company explained that: Pu Tai’s image was used in amulets and within restaurants; Pu Tai had become a deity of contentment and abundance; people rubbed Pu Tai’s belly for wealth, good luck and prosperity; Pu Tai was the patron saint of restauranteurs, fortune-tellers and bartenders; when someone ate or drank too much, it was jokingly blamed on Pu Tai.
The company said monks brewed beer all over the world and that some of the best beers were associated with European monasteries.
The company then explained an issue they experienced with their trademarked logo. They explained that the product was known as “Lucky Beer” in most markets but they were unable to use that name in the US, because another company held a similar trademark, so they had started trading under the name “Lucky Buddha”. The Company stated that they were willing to replace the name Lucky Buddha with Lucky Beer for the UK market. The company stated that Lucky Beer was imported into Thailand, and argued that demonstrated that the product did not give widespread offence to Buddhists. The company argued that their product had not caused widespread offence in its ten years on the market. The company noted that the Code had only recently been amended.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel first discussed whether the product name or packaging had caused serious or widespread offence. The Panel noted the product was sold in predominantly Buddhist countries including Thailand. The Panel noted that there were different named Buddhas and different images of Buddha. Despite the fact that the bottle included the brand name “Lucky Buddha”, the Panel considered that the bottle was in fact a representation of Pu Tai. The Panel also noted that this product had reached the complaints process following a compliance audit of the new Code and considered that it did not provide evidence that Buddhists were offended by the name or packaging. The Panel accordingly did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.3.
The Panel then discussed whether the packaging communicated the drink’s alcoholic nature with absolute clarity. The Panel noted the front of the bottle did not include a product description or indicate its alcoholic nature, but the label on the back of the bottle described the contents as “beer” and included the unit content of the bottle, pregnancy logo, information about the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines, a responsible drinking message and “4.8%”. The Panel considered that the information on the back label was difficult to read, because it was printed on a clear label and so had to be read against the background of the liquid in the bottle rather than a solid printed background, and that the ABV statement was not conspicuous. The Panel considered that label could be clearer but, in the absence of evidence that consumers had been misled, concluded that the product did not breach Code Rule 3.1.