Company: Beverage Pouch Group (imported by Chilling Rocks Beverages Ltd)
Final Decision: 12 September 2008
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
“The name of this product suggests it is a “shot” which I understood is generally expected to be either a 25ml or 35ml quantity of alcoholic drink … The packaging would need to set out very clearly the number of units in the drink”
“This product contains a ‘double measure’ which appears likely to be more than two units. It is also, the point is made below, designed to be drunk in one go. For women, it is likely that drinking two of these products in one two hour period would of itself constitute binge drinking.”
“A “shot” is generally understood to be a quantity of drink that is drunk in one go, so the name “ShotPak” is in itself not helpful. In addition, the nature of the packaging makes it harder to handle than a bottle. It is notable that the other main type of drinks packaged in this way – fruit juices for children’s lunch boxes – are designed to be drunk in one go.”
“It also appears that the product is targeted especially at younger people … The only drink product I can think of which is packaged the same way are some pouches of fruit juice which young people have in packed lunch boxes.”
Sally Keeble MP
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(f)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(g)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way urge the consumer to drink rapidly or to “down” a product in one.
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 they were importing the product from the USA. The product was packaged in 50ml sachets and these, in turn, were packaged in boxes of six sachets. There were two formats. First, there was a pre-mixed vodka version with an ABV of 17% marketed primarily as “ShotPak”. This came in four flavours named Apple Sour, Lemon Drop, Purple Hooter and Kamikaze. Secondly, there was a full-strength spirit version with an ABV of 40% marketed primarily as “STR8UP” but also featuring “ShotPak” branding. This also came in four varieties: vodka, rum, tequila and whisky. The box of six sachets was intended to retail at £14.95.
The company maintained that the packaging made the alcoholic nature clear.
The company denied that the packaging urged the consumer to drink rapidly or down-in-one. They stated that the sachet could stand up on its base and did not therefore need to be consumed all at once. They further maintained that the term “shot” simply denoted a measurement of drink, in this case 50ml.
The company disputed that the packaging encouraged illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption. They said that the product’s portability made it suitable, for example, for people going to the beach or attending sporting events.
The company said that the product was aimed at people aged 25-45 and was priced accordingly. They stated that the packaging format offered various advantages, including in terms of portability and the environment.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel, however, was concerned that the novel packaging meant that consumers would not expect the sachets to contain alcohol. It was particularly concerned that, in respect of the pre-mixed version, the sachets featured images of fruit that might reinforce the impression that this was a soft drink. In view of these factors, it considered that the alcoholic nature needed to be made clearer and accordingly found the packaging in breach of Code paragraph 3.1.
The Panel noted that the product was marketed as “The shot without a glass”, thus encouraging the consumer to consume directly from the sachet. It noted the sachet could not be re-sealed once opened and considered that the soft packaging did not lend itself easily to being set down. It considered that it would be difficult for the consumer to do anything other than down the contents in one go and that, in this context, the names “ShotPak” and “STR8UP” were likely to be seen as encouraging that style of consumption. It considered that the nature of the packaging in combination with the textual references meant that overall the packaging was therefore urging rapid or down-in-one consumption and accordingly found it in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(g).
The Panel considered that the product’s portability and ease of concealment meant that it might appeal to people who wanted to drink surreptitiously or to smuggle alcohol into places where drinking wasn’t allowed, for example schools, but considered it was unreasonable to object to the packaging format on these grounds alone. The Panel considered, however, that the packaging was urging down-in-one consumption (see above) and was concerned that, given the full-strength version contained two units of alcohol per pouch, this could quickly lead to drunkenness. The Panel therefore considered that the packaging did encourage irresponsible and immoderate consumption and accordingly found it in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(f).
The Panel was concerned that the sachets were similar in format to those that contained soft drinks aimed at children. It also considered that the ease of concealment would appeal to under-18s who wanted to drink in prohibited situations. While the Panel considered that these concerns did not necessarily prohibit this packaging format altogether under the Code, it considered that this appeal to under-18s was exacerbated in the case of the pre-mixed versions by the colourful packaging and attractive-sounding flavour names such as Purple Hooter and Lemon Drop. In the case of the full-strength version, it considered this appeal was exacerbated by the use of the text-style abbreviation in the name “STR8UP”. It therefore found that the packaging appealed particularly to under-18s and accordingly found the product in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(h).
Finally, the Panel noted that one of the pre-mixed sachets was named “Kamikaze”. The Panel considered that this carried implications of self-destruction and would be seen as an invitation to drink excessively. It accordingly regarded this flavour name, in itself, as in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(f).
Action by company
The company agreed to consult the Portman Group’s Advisory Service for guidance on appropriate changes to the packaging.