Company: Borco–Marken–Import Matthiesen GmbH & Co.Breach: Yes
Imported by: Intercontinental Brands (ICB) Limited
Final Decision: 18 August 1997
Considered under the 1st Edition of the Code.
“The name of this product suggests an association with violent, aggressive, dangerous and anti–social behaviour. This is wholly supported by the shape of the container which looks like a bullet. The name also has strong associations with the use of illicit drugs. The wording on the label encourages the drink to be drunk ‘in one‘ – ‘Red Hot Slammer‘ is written twice and is also a registered trademark – something which means they want to keep this particular wording for this product only. This point of drinking ‘in one‘is of particular concern considering the high strength of the drink (20% aby) which needs to be highlighted.”
The Health Education Authority
Under Code paragraph 2.1(d)
Brand names and product descriptors should not encourage immoderate, illegal or irresponsible consumption such as binge drinking, drunkeness, drink driving, purchase by or sale to under 18s.
Under Code paragraph 2.1(e)
Brand names and product descriptors should not suggest an association with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social imagery or behaviour.
Under Code paragraph 3(1)
Packaging and point of sale materials should ensure that the product’s alcoholic nature and its alcoholic strength are clearly communicated to consumers by clear indication on the package.
Under Code paragraph 3(7)
Containers do not mimic containers or shapes predominantly associated with anti-social or dangerous behaviour.
Under Code paragraph 3(8)
Packaging and point of sale materials should not predominantly appeal to under 18s.
The Company, by a letter from its solicitors dated 7th August 1997, stated that it does not have any control over the design or the packaging of the product, but simply imports it from Borco–Marken–Import Matthiesen GmbH & Co, the producer. The solicitors went on to say that the Company is conscious of its responsibilities as signatory to the Code, and as the provisional decision of the Panel was to uphold some aspects of the complaint and as the Company does not produce the product and is therefore unable to make any modifications to it, the Company has taken the decision to cease the sale of the product once existing stocks have been exhausted.
The Panel noted the following dictionary definitions: ‘SHOOTER‘: ‘(UK Police/criminal use) a gun‘, (slang) a pistol etc‘; ‘SHOOT: ‘to inject an illegal narcotic intravenously ... a shooting gallery is where you may obtain illegal narcotics, SLAMMER‘ – listed in various dictionaries as meaning ‘prison‘.
The Panel noted the point made in the Company solicitor‘s submission of 16 June 1997 that the name does imply “down in one” but the Panel considered that the name would not encourage immoderate, illegal or irresponsible consumption within the meaning of paragraph 2.1(d) of the Code, especially having regard to the relatively small capacity of the container.
The Panel did, however, consider that the name, taking account of the dictionary definitions above, does have associations with violent, aggressive or anti–social behaviour and therefore contravenes paragraph 2.1(e).
The Panel, having looked at a sample of the product, considered that the alcoholic strength is clearly shown. As the Company has pointed out, the volume and alcoholic strength are clearly shown and the words “vodka” and “cocktail liqueur” are used three times on the label: there is therefore no contravention of paragraph 3(1).
The Panel considered that the bullet shape of the container does mimic a shape predominantly associated with anti–social or dangerous behaviour in contravention of paragraph 3(7).
The Panel also considered that the child–like cartoon character of a wild west bandit and its prominence on the label predominantly appeals to under 18s in contravention of paragraph 3(8).
The Panel therefore upheld this complaint under paragraphs 2.1(e), 3(7) and 3(8).
In the circumstances, the Panel was pleased to note the statement in the Company‘s solicitors‘ letter of 7th August 1997 that it intends to cease the sale of the product once existing stocks have been exhausted.
Action by company
Intercontinental Brands (ICB) Limited ceased importing the product following receipt of The Portman Group’s letter dated 4 August 1997 which advised that the product did not comply with The Portman Group’s Code of Practice.