Company: Pernod Ricard UK
Final Decision: 12 June 2014
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
The front of the bottle identifies the product as Pernod. It also includes an alcohol content declaration but this does not stand out against the background (blue font typed over a silver background) and so lacks clarity. The side label includes a description: ‘spirituex Anise’ (sic) but this is not given in English. On the back label, ‘spirit’ is mentioned within the description. The product seems to be relying on its brand name to be recognised as an alcoholic drink.’
The Portman Group (in lieu of complainant as part of 2012 Code Compliance Audit)
Under Code paragraph 3.1
The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
The company’s submission
Pernod Ricard UK (PR-UK) said that Pernod was an anise-based spirit that had been sold in the UK since the 1950s. The product is produced and bottled in France by the sister-company Pernod Ricard S.A (PR-SA), who is also the brand owner, and so not under the direct control of PR-UK.
PR-UK acknowledge the findings of Campden BRI (the company commissioned by the Portman Group to carry out the 2012 audit) and accepted the concerns raised on the clarity of the alcohol content statement on the front label, and that the statement of the product descriptor, i.e. ‘spiritueux anise’, could perhaps appear in a more prominent position. It had commenced discussions with PR-SA to modify the front label and had committed to developing a front label to increase the clarity of the alcohol content declaration, and to make the product descriptor statement more prominent.
PR-UK went on to say that although they would consider making changes to their labels and integrating these into future bottling schedules, it would be difficult for PR-UK to implement the changes in the very near future because they would need to be agreed by PR-SA, as the brand owner, and there was currently a large stock of already bottled product and dry goods (labels).
In its subsequent response, the company reiterated its commitment to making changes to the product labelling.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel noted that paragraph 3.1 of the Code requires that ‘the alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated with absolute clarity’. The Panel considered that the purpose of this requirement was to ensure that consumers know that the products they are buying and consuming contain alcohol. It was the Panel’s view that consumers not familiar with the Pernod brand could therefore consume or serve the product without being aware of its alcoholic content.
The Panel noted that although the front label included the text ‘40%’, this was in blue font typed over a silvery background and did not stand out. On the back label there were two mentions of the word ‘spirit’, and also the word ‘distillation’, which together with alcohol-related health information appeared to provide an indication that the product was alcohol. However, the words ‘spirit’ and ‘distillation’ were couched within a lyrical description rather than being read in isolation as the product descriptor, and the font size and colouring meant they were not easily legible. The term ‘spiritueux anise’ also featured on the back label and was seen as an attempt to describe the product contents, but this was not in English so as to be easily understood by a UK consumer.
Looking at the product and labelling as a whole, the Panel considered that the alcoholic nature of the product was not being communicated with absolute clarity. It appeared that Pernod was relying principally on its brand name to communicate the alcoholic nature of the product. The Panel did not consider such reliance to be appropriate, given that there will inevitably be consumers who are not familiar with the Pernod brand and may therefore fail to associate the brand name with an alcoholic product.
The Panel welcomed the company’s commitment to amend the label, and noted the further assurance of changes the company made in its subsequent response. However, in light of the considerations above, the Panel found the packaging of Pernod to be in breach of Code paragraph 3.1.
Action by company
The Panel welcomed the fact the company gave its assurance that they would be amending the product to comply with the Code.