A complaint about the packaging of Oranjeboom promoting immoderate drinking and rapid or ‘down’ in one consumption has not been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel (Panel).  A copy of the full decision can be read here.

The complainant, Portsmouth City Council, believed that the combination of the strength of the product plus the fact that the product was served in a non-resealable can encouraged consumers to drink immoderately and also may inspire a ‘down in one’ drinking style. As “once opened [the product] must be consumed or rapidly lose quality of taste etc.” thus breaching the Portman Group Code under paragraphs 3.2(f) and 3.2 (g). The Panel also considered whether the product packaging gave the higher alcoholic strength undue emphasis, thus breaching Code paragraph 3.2(a).

The product was brought to the attention of the Panel prior to the consultation on the Chief Medical Officers’ (CMOs) 2016 Low Risk Drinking Guidelines and was put on hold until the Guidelines Review had concluded. The Panel noted that the current CMOs’ guidelines did not contain a daily or single occasion drinking guideline, and the Panel could not infer from the evidence presented to the CMOs by the Guidelines Development Group that 4.25 units on a single occasion was an immoderate (whether because of increased risk to health or safety or otherwise) level of drinking. The Panel concluded that there was insufficient evidence to find a breach of Code paragraph 3.2(f).

The Panel could not see anything on the packaging that would encourage a consumer to drink rapidly or to ‘down’ a product in one.  Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the product under Code paragraph 3.2(g).

In considering the complaint, the Panel also raised rule 3.2(a), (that a product’s packaging should not in any direct or indirect way give the higher alcoholic strength undue emphasis). The Panel discussed the size and prominence of the ‘8.5’ (relating to the strength of the product) and the words ‘imported’ and ‘extra strong’. The Panel concluded that as the product was available in various different strengths, it was useful for the consumer to know that the product was 8.5% ABV. The Panel agreed that the words ‘imported’ and ‘extra strong’ were factual and not unduly emphasised when compared with other wording on the product. The Panel ruled that the packaging did not place undue emphasis on the alcoholic strength of the drink and so was not in breach under Code paragraph 3.2(a).

Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, Kay Perry said:

‘‘When designing the packaging of a product, alcohol producers and their marketing teams should be aware of the Portman Group’s Code of Practice and the rules regarding immoderate drinking or promoting a product on the basis of its high alcoholic strength. If a producer would like free and confidential advice, the Portman Group Advice Team can be contacted through our website.”