Company: Mr Fraser Coutts t/a The Rocket Fuel Drinks Company
Final Decision: 24 June 2005
Considered under the 3rd Edition of the Code.
“The name of these drinks, ‘Rocket Fuel Vodka’ and ‘Rocket Fuel Ice’, and prominent positioning of the very high alcohol content, 42.85% ABV, is clearly using the intoxicating effect to sell the product. Most people would think of rocket fuel as being a very powerful substance and it is completely irresponsible for a drink to be promoted in terms of the effect of the alcohol content.”
Alcohol Focus Scotland
Under Code paragraph 3.2(a)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have the alcoholic strength, relatively high alcohol content, or the intoxicating effect, as a dominant theme.
The Panel’s assessment
The producer’s solicitors argued that ‘Rocket Fuel’ had been marketed since 1997 without complaint. They pointed out that ‘Rocket Fuel’ was a registered trademark and that the ‘Rocket Fuel Vodka’ label carried the wording ‘Drink Responsibly’. They said that after The Portman Group’s Advisory Service had contacted the producer in 1999 expressing concern about the product name, he had changed an advertisement strapline from ‘The Vodka with a kick’ to ‘Vodka that is out of the world’. The solicitors cited several Panel decisions dating from 1996-2001, some of which concerned issues similar to the complaint against their product, in which complaints were not upheld. They said that the premium price of the product meant that it would not appeal to those seeking basic alcohol. Finally, they said that the name was intended to be a humorous joke and could not be intended to suggest that drinking the product would empower the drinker. They pointed out that the strength of the product was very clearly marked on the label and that the name clearly reinforced the producer’s message that it was a strong drink. They said that a more innocuous name would be irresponsible promotion of the vodka product given its alcoholic strength.
The Panel noted the solicitors’ arguments. It also noted that in 1999 The Portman Group Advisory Service had expressed concerns about the name of the product and advised the producer to change it. The Panel considered that that the term ‘rocket fuel’ was widely associated with something very strong and very powerful. The Panel did not object to the positioning or size of the alcoholic strength information (42.85% abv for Rocket Fuel Vodka, 5.5% abv for Rocket Fuel Ice) or any aspect of the products’ packaging. It did, however, consider that ‘rocket fuel’ was an unacceptable choice of name for an alcoholic drink, even at a premium price, because it made the alcoholic strength of the product the dominant theme. The Panel therefore concluded that both product names were in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(a).