Mr Gladstone’s Curious Emporium Range
Company: Kingsland Wine and Spirits
“I have concerns about Curious Emporium Wine. When shopping my 12 yr old sister grabbed the bottle thinking it was for her. Despite clearly being in a wine bottle, it looked similar to Shloer sparkling. My sister continued to make concerning links. Mr Gladstone resembles Mr Magorium from the children’s film Mr Magorium’s wonder emporium in name and appearance. The film uses the idea of the emporium to amplify a child’s sense of wonder and curiosity. The name of the wine and logo of the wine became instantly more unsettling once this connection was made. As a teacher I use sweet shops in maths as they offer children a context to learn. There are retro sweet shops countrywide now clearly showing a growing popularity. I can only imagine children will think the wine is made for them, extending the retro sweet pocket money trade they enter so frequently due to the clear retro sweet shop design throughout the brand which I feel blatantly encourages children to buy the drink.”
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.
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 had used nostalgic rather than currently popular sweets to avoid engaging with under-18s, that no sweets were pictured on the labels and that the branding was ‘steampunk’ themed, which is not targeting children.
The company stated that they were unaware of the Mr Magorium character or film when developing the brand, but having been made aware they did not consider that there was a resemblance.
The company noted that Shloer Sparkling is an adult focused soft drink that is not targeted at children. They also considered that there was no resemblance between Shloer Sparkling and the Mr Gladstone’s product range.
The company stated that they had sought the Portman Group’s advice and acted accordingly to adhere to best practice in alcohol social responsibility.
The Panel’s assessment:
The Panel first considered whether the Mr Gladstone character was reminiscent of Mr Magorium. They noted that the first association with Gladstone was of a historic politician and that Gladstone did not sound similar to Magorium. They also noted that Mr Magorium is not associated with a top hat. The Panel agreed that the character was not reminiscent of Mr Magorium.
The Panel also considered whether the character was appealing to under-18s in his own right. They noted that he was not necessarily a jolly character, and could be considered slightly off-putting. They also noted that that did not preclude appealing to under-18s as characters such as the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would fit into that description.
The Panel went on to consider the retro sweet flavour names. The Panel agreed that the flavours ‘Rhubarb and Custard’, ‘Pear Drop’, ‘Pineapple Cube’ and ‘Strawberry Bon Bon’ were not, in and of themselves, particularly appealing to under-18s. The Panel noted that there was a difference between using a sweet name as a flavour and marketing a drink in the context of sweets.
The Panel then considered the wording on the labels and agreed that the reference to Mr Gladstone’s ‘Confectionery Emporium’ was synonymous with a sweet shop. They considered that this reference put the flavour names and character into a specific context.
The Panel noted the company’s statement that Shloer Sparkling was an adult-targeted soft drink, and that there were soft drinks which took on some of the characteristics of alcohol products to appeal to an adult audience. The Panel considered however that if there was the possibility for soft drinks to be confused with alcoholic drinks, it was of utmost importance that alcoholic drinks were labelled with absolute clarity.
The Panel noted that the front label of the non-carbonated drinks showed the ABV in the centre, and off to the side on the carbonated bottles. In all cases the ABV appeared on a gold foil-embossed background, which the Panel considered was difficult to read. Two of the bottles included the wording ‘delicious fusion beverage’ above the ABV. The Panel considered that consumers would not understand this to mean alcohol.
The Panel noted that the rear labels of the product contained the wording ‘mixed alcoholic beverage’ and standard alcohol health messaging. The Panel also noted however that one rear label suggested mixing the drink with sparkling wine, which they considered further added to confusion over the alcoholic nature of the contents.
The Panel felt that it was important to note that particular appeal to under-18s did not just mean appeal to young children, but also to those just under drinking age. They expressed concern that sweet-tasting drinks branded more as confectionery, than as alcohol, could be seen as a soft introduction to alcohol by teenagers.
The Panel noted that the company had sought guidance from the Advisory Service, and noted that most, but not all of it, had been followed. They also noted that the products did not exactly match the labels considered by the Advisory Service.
The Panel concluded that the flavour names and character in the context of a sweet shop, coupled with the alcoholic nature of the product not being absolutely clear meant that the product was in breach of rules 3.1 and 3.2(h).
The Panel also noted that, as part of the company’s response to the provisional decision, it had offered to make changes to the product packaging. Whilst noting this, the Panel felt that the company had not presented any compelling reasons why the Panel should change its view in respect of any of the products. Accordingly, the Panel reaffirmed its previous decision as above.
Action by Company:
The company has agreed changes to the product packaging in consultation with the Portman Group’s Advisory Service.