Northern Monk Brewery
“I believe the name and main image on this packaging appeal particularly to children. While the background pictures and name font are unlikely to be of particular appeal by themselves, they also contribute to the childlike effect.
“As a family of beer lovers and home brewers, we have raised our 4 year old to understand what alcohol is and why he is not permitted to try it. He knows what a beer can looks like and that it contains alcohol, which he is aware can harm him and he should not drink it. He has never asked to try beer, and if you ask him in jest he will clearly refuse it and say that alcohol is not for children. However, when he saw his dad drinking this beer and heard that it was called Rocket Lolly, he became very upset that he wasn’t allowed to try it, even after we made clear it was beer.
“Of the dozens of different can designs he’s seen, this is the only one that has ever held appeal to him – appeal so strong that he’s upset about not being permitted a drink that he would ordinarily tell you off for pretending to offer him.
“Rocket ice lollies are a particularly childish product and the cartoon imagery is redolent of ice lolly packaging. The background images could have come straight from my son’s sheets of stickers and colouring books. While the brewery may argue that they aimed for nostalgia rather than childishness, this would miss the fact that rocket lollies are still highly popular with children and are not just an artefact of adults’ childhoods. The primary appeal here is to children, not to adults; the name and imagery are highly inappropriate for an alcoholic product.
“I was served sponsored search ads for these two ice lolly products today and the packaging for both struck me as almost identical to the can, even down to the background graphics. Many of the customer reviews specifically mention buying them for children.”
Member of the public
“Northern Monk Rocket Lolly IPA.
“Appealing to under 18 using a specific type of ice lolly for name and images. Whilst IPA is mentioned on the can this is in a darker colour and is not clearly visible”
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.1
The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.
The company’s submission:
The company explained that one of its core values was ‘community’ and was disappointed to learn of the complaint. The company stated that it consciously considered the positioning and impact of its products within communities at all stages of conception and that it intended to work co-operatively with the Portman Group.
The company stated it was one of the most premium craft breweries in the UK and a champion of safe and responsible drinking. The company explained that, for context, it was operating in challenging marketing conditions which had led to the closure of many breweries.
The company explained that Rocket Lolly IPA was designed to celebrate heritage and nostalgic food and drink experiences, with the packaging intended to be reminiscent of Rocket Lolly packaging popular in the 1980s and 1990s. The company explained that the drink retailed at a price which was double the cost of a pack of eight rocket ice lollies. The company stated that the beer was a strawberry, orange and pineapple IPA which was marketed at discerning consumers who enjoy the exploration of culinary inspired beers.
In light of the complaints received about the product, the company explained that it had taken the decision to remove Rocket Lolly IPA from production and only had minimal stock left with select retailers.
The Panel’s assessment:
Code rule 3.1
The Panel first considered whether the packaging of Rocket Lolly IPA communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity as raised by the second complainant. The Panel considered that the overall theme of the beer was based on a type of frozen lolly, namely a ‘rocket lolly’ which was traditionally shaped like a rocket and used the colours red, orange and yellow to represent three fruit flavours. The Panel noted that the front of the packaging included a large image of a rocket lolly, the flavour descriptor ‘Strawberry, Orange and Pineapple’, and the name of the drink ‘Rocket Lolly IPA’.
The Panel also noted that the colour palette employed for the word ‘rocket’ incorporated bold elements of red, orange and yellow, surrounded by a black bold outline, which stood out against the predominantly dark purple label. In addition to this, the word ‘lolly’ had been presented clearly in white font on the dark purple background. In contrast to this, the Panel observed that the alcoholic descriptor ‘IPA’ and the drink’s alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of 4.7% were both presented on the front label in a comparatively small black font which was not easily visible against the dark purple background. The Panel noted that the front and side label did include references to hops but considered that in the context of the above, neither reference was presented as clearly as other information on pack.
The Panel then assessed the packaging in its entirety and noted that there were some positive alcohol cues on the back label, such as the product’s ABV and the unit content of the drink. However, on balance, the Panel considered that in the context of a well-known frozen ice lolly which made a virtue of its fruit flavours in design, and was not a product typically associated with alcohol, the packaging should work harder to ensure that it communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity. In this instance, the Panel concluded that the comparatively small black font used for the product’s alcoholic signifiers on a dark purple background were difficult to read and not as prominent as the product’s direct link to a non-alcoholic frozen ice lolly which could cause confusion for consumers as to whether the drink contained alcohol. Therefore, the Panel did not consider that the packaging of the drink communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity and accordingly upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.1.
The Panel then considered whether the packaging had a particular appeal to under-18s as raised by both complainants. The Panel discussed the producer response which stated that the intention of the branding was to invoke a sense of nostalgia for adult consumers who enjoyed rocket lollies in their childhood. The Panel considered the appeal of rocket lollies and noted that as a frozen lolly they were still readily available and enjoyed by children today, noting in particular that the frozen lolly was typically retailed alongside other frozen lollies aimed at children. The Panel acknowledged that while some adults may enjoy rocket lollies, the frozen lolly strongly resonated with, and was primarily marketed at, young children. Whilst the Panel acknowledged that such appeal could sometimes be unintentional, in the sense that a producer may not intend to appeal to a younger age group, the Panel encouraged alcohol producers to take care when trying to invoke a sense of childhood nostalgia in adults so as not to include elements which could have particular appeal to
In that context, the Panel then assessed the overall impression conveyed by the packaging. The Panel discussed the recent findings of a Kids Industries report commissioned by the Panel and the Portman Group, entitled ‘Marketing that Appeals to Under-18s’. The Panel noted that the label included bright contrasting colours, a cartoon image of a rocket lolly with a bold black keyline, thick outlined fonts and onomatopoeic phrases. The Panel also noted the inclusion of a white explosion on the front label which read as ‘Blast Hop!’ and was reminiscent of speech bubbles in some comics. The Panel considered the combination of all these elements, in the context of a rocket lolly theme which had a particular appeal to under-18s in and of itself and concluded that the product packaging had a particular appeal to under-18s. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaints under Code rule 3.2(h).
Action by Company:
Product has been discontinued.