‘… this is clearly based on the branding of Monster energy drink, which besides all of its associated claims of improved awareness, awakeness and other benefits, is also brightly coloured and aimed at under 18s.
The energy drink Monster has associations with bravado (heavy sponsorship of motorsports such as NASCAR and Rally America) and aggression (tagline “unleash the beast”). By nodding to its branding, Tiny Rebel naturally inherit all of those associations, in a product also containing alcohol.’
Member of the public
‘The branding of these products is designed to mislead, they are clear facsimiles of popular other products that are very obviously not alcoholic, the risk to the public is high (underage alcohol sales (energy drinks), identifying with health products…. due to the intentional duplication of branding, colours & typeface.’
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.2(b)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(f)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.
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.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(j)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest that the product has therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood or behaviour.
The company’s submission
The company did not submit a response to the complaint.
The Panel’s assessment
Code rule 3.2(j)
The Panel discussed whether the packaging of Monstar suggested the drink had therapeutic qualities and could change mood and behaviour as outlined by the complainants. The Panel observed that the packaging was predominantly pink, with yellow highlights and a graffiti style typeface all of which closely resembled the branding of the well-known, non-alcoholic Monster Energy drink brand. The Panel noted that Monster Energy had a high caffeine content and included other known stimulant ingredients such as taurine. The Panel discussed the brand Monster Energy and noted that the brand’s advertising explicitly linked to behavioural effects such as increased energy, focus and effectiveness which was also implicit in the energy drink’s name. The Panel noted that Monster Energy’s advertising often created a link between the claimed energy effect of the product and increased performance in events like extreme sport and performance-related activities with the accompanying tagline ‘Unleash the Beast!’ compounding this direct link. The Panel considered that some consumers would recognise the strong similarity to Monster Energy branding, particularly those in younger age groups, and would also be familiar with the brand’s stimulant effect that was frequently linked to enhanced performance capabilities.
The Panel noted that Monstar did not include any stimulant ingredients and in the context of the Code, the inclusion of stimulant ingredients in an alcoholic drink was not inherently problematic as demonstrated through previous Panel decisions (Dragon Soop Range 2022 and Four Loko Range 2023). However, the Panel expressed significant concern that the branding, name and typeface of Monstar all intentionally mirrored the Monster Energy brand and was presented as the predominant theme of the packaging. On the basis that Monstar was presented as sharing the characteristics of a well-known energy drink capable of enhancing physical and mental capabilities the Panel concluded that Monstar indirectly suggested that it could fulfil the same purpose as the original brand, and thus inferred the same effect.
While the Panel acknowledged that the packaging of Monstar did not include any direct performance enhancing claims, the product descriptor text on the company’s web page included the line ‘Our ‘Cos Jan’s Bad Enough Beers are all made with love and fun to help chase away the January blues..’. The Panel also noted that the product had been launched as part of a wider range in January, a month that in recent years had become linked to health goals and giving up certain products or types of food and drink. The Panel considered that the product’s marketing reinforced the perception that consumption of the drink could help change a consumer’s mood to chase away the January blues. The Panel therefore concluded that Monstar indirectly suggested that it could enhance physical and mental capabilities, change mood and behaviour, and upheld the complaints under Code rule 3.2(j).
Code rule 3.2(f)
The Panel discussed whether the packaging encouraged illegal, irresponsible, or immoderate consumption as raised by one of the complainants. The Panel reiterated that the branding of Monstar was an intentional facsimile of Monster Energy which indirectly suggested that it could fulfil the same purpose as the original brand. In particular, the Panel noted that Monster Energy was primarily marketed on the basis that it could enhance performance and that this had become an inherent association with the brand. After careful consideration of the Code rule 3.2(f) wording, and in the context of its decision under Code rule 3.2(j), the Panel considered that Monstar’s mimicry of the Monster Energy brand was a dominant theme of the packaging and if a consumer believed that the product could enhance performance this could indirectly encourage a consumer to drink it to excess in order to gain the inferred benefits of the product. The Panel considered that a consumer may then base their alcohol consumption on the purported health benefits of the product, as opposed to making an informed consumption choice based on the amount of alcohol in the product and this, the Panel concluded, could reasonably lead to irresponsible consumption as a consumer might consume more than they otherwise would have done. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(f).
Code rule 3.2(h)
The Panel then discussed whether the Monster Energy brand was likely to have a particular appeal to under-18s on the basis that the packaging of Monstar was a facsimile of the Monster Energy brand. The Panel discussed the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on ‘Ending the sale of energy drinks to children’, and noted as part of this that Monster Energy was popular with under-18s, particularly teenage boys, but was also consumed by adults. The Panel therefore considered that while Monster Energy was popular with under-18s and did have a certain level of appeal to a teenage age group, it had not seen enough evidence to suggest that this constituted a ‘particular’ appeal to under-18s.
The Panel then discussed whether anything on the packaging of Monstar had a particular appeal to under-18s in the context that the Monster Energy brand had a certain level of appeal to a teenage age group. The Panel discussed the company’s corporate bear logo and noted previous case precedents that reviewed its compliance under the Code (Cali Pale, Bump n’ Grind, Cherry Bomb, Clwb Tropica, Clwb Tropica Four Pack, Double 99, No Capes, Original Nuttah 2021). The Panel discussed that while the bear did not necessarily breach the Code in itself, it had the potential to appeal to under-18s depending on its size, presentation and contextual appearance. In this instance, the Panel noted that it appeared on the front label in the context of a product which was popular with under-18s.
The Panel noted that the packaging was predominantly bright pink, with contrasting yellow elements outlined in black. The Panel discussed that the label included ‘doodle’ design images of decorated skulls, guitars, stars and hearts and the font was playful, edgy and in keeping with designs that would have strong appeal to a teenage audience. When assessing the packaging as a whole, the Panel concluded that in the context of an energy drink brand which was popular with under-18s, the prominence of the corporate bear logo, the imagery, contrasting bright colours and typeface all contributed to an overall impression which would have a particular appeal to under-18s. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
Code rule 3.2(b)
Finally, the Panel discussed whether the packaging created any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour. The Panel discussed whether the similarity in branding could create an association between Monstar and the sponsorship activities of Monster Energy; noting that Monster Energy sponsored an array of sports such as BMX, mountain biking, snowboarding, skateboarding and car racing as highlighted by the complainant. The Panel stated that while there was a strong similarity between the branding of the two drinks, there was nothing on the packaging of Monstar which directly or indirectly linked to the sponsorships undertaken by Monster Energy. Furthermore, the Panel noted that the Code did not prevent the sponsorship of such activities by alcohol producers, and that Monstar was not involved in such sponsorships. On this basis, the Panel did not consider that Monstar created an association with bravado, aggressive or dangerous behaviour.
The Panel then assessed the overall impression of the packaging and determined that there was nothing else on the label which created an association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.2(b).
Action by Company:
Product has been discontinued.
 Visram S, Cheetham M, Riby DM, et al Consumption of energy drinks by children and young people: a rapid review examining evidence of physical effects and consumer attitudes