7 March 2019
Considered under 5th Edition of the Code.
“The can is in bright colours, and the name Neck Oil, implies that it is to be drunk “down in one”, i.e. necked, this [sic] in line with the colours is clearly aimed at the younger market and encouraging irresponsible consumption”.
Member of the public
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(g)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material should not in any direct or indirect way urge the consumer to drink rapidly or to ‘down’ a product in one.
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.
The company’s submission
The company began by stating that it takes its responsibilities as a producer seriously. The company stated that it was its belief that the complainant had misunderstood the name of the beer, and as a consequence, developed an incoherent and misguided argument against it.
The company explained that Neck Oil was sold in 330ml cans at an ABV of 4.3% which was well within the UK Chief Medical Officer’s low risk drinking guidelines. The company stressed that it marketed its products as ‘premium’ and charged accordingly. Further to this, the company stated that it only supplied its beers to the specialist craft beer network and to high street outlets known to operate at a high ethical level, and those that implemented the Challenge 25 policy (i.e. Waitrose and Marks and Spencer).
The company stated that there was no evidence to support the complainant’s criticism of the product name and that their interpretation was out of step with the accepted and regular use of the term ‘neck oil’. The company highlighted text on its website, and other online sources, to demonstrate how the phrase was typically interpreted. The company explained that the name was originally chosen to pay homage to its CEO’s grandfather, who referred to the beer almost exclusively as such and never as shorthand for ‘necking’. The company stated that the name ‘neck oil’ incorporated the noun ‘neck’ and did not encourage the act of necking beer in quantity.
The company stated that the colour palette followed the corporate, award winning and well-established company brand that consumers were familiar with. The company refuted the complainant’s assertion that the product could have a particular appeal to under-18s and stated that it was not designed to appeal to tweens, youths, or an irresponsible beer-drinking demographic. The company explained that the beer label had the same layout as Gamma Ray, which had previously been considered by the Panel in 2015, and that it complied with EU food labelling regulations in the same way and made it clear that the product was alcoholic. In addition to this, the company highlighted the fact that the illustrations were of a similar nature to Gamma Ray which the Panel had ruled were adult in nature.
In response to the complainant’s assertion that the product encouraged irresponsible consumption, the company stated that there was no imagery on the can that could be taken as a cue to drink the product immoderately.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel firstly considered whether the product had a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel discussed the colour palette and illustrations on the can design and noted that muted instead of contrasting colours had been used and that the artwork was sophisticated, and adult in nature. The Panel concluded that there was no element of the can that could have a particular appeal to under-18s and accordingly did not uphold the product under Code Rule 3.2(h).
The Panel discussed the term ‘Session IPA’ and acknowledged that it was a commonly used descriptor in the craft beer category to denote a product of lower than average strength of ‘IPA’ and that the term’s acceptability would depend on the overall impression conveyed by a product. The Panel considered the company’s submission and acknowledged that the phrase ‘neck oil’ was widely recognised as colloquial term for beer both within and outside the industry. The Panel noted that neck was used as a noun and did not consider that its use in this way suggested a “down in one” style of consumption. The Panel noted that there were no visual or text cues to encourage irresponsible or “down in one” consumption and accordingly did not uphold the product under Code Rules 3.2(g) or 3.2(f).
Action by the Company