Company: Whitbread Beer
Final Decision: 18 December 1998
“I feel that ‘Source‘ suggests confusion as to the product‘s alcoholic nature and strength. ‘Source‘ only uses a small alc. 5.3% volume symbol at the top of the bottle neck which is not very prominent compared with the eye-catching design of the bottle.
The word ‘vodka‘ is mentioned twice on the front although [it does] not stand out compared with the label ‘Source‘, and the words ‘Fruit Springwater‘ catch the eye more.
The word ‘source‘ means the place where something comes or is obtained from. It is also the starting point of the river. The other meaning could be suggestive to people especially under 18s wanting to learn more, maybe at exam time, as ‘source‘ also means ‘a person or book etc supplying information‘. This could be misleading with new drinks on the market which supposedly help your brain power. (These definitions were out of a children‘s dictionary).
My main concern is the similarity to Asda‘s Peach Spring Water in the style of the label. Both use the backdrop of fruit with the clear liquid in front. The Portman Group has upheld a complaint of the same nature before shown in the December 1997 Report [namely] ‘Aveq‘ by Matthew Clark Brands Ltd which was removed from the UK market as the Panel felt that the product resembled a brand of flavoured herbal water.
In this case ‘Source‘ does resemble Asda’s Spring Water and Spring Water is very trendy in the under 18s market at present, and known to cleanse the body of bad toxins.
I have researched both products myself and have found that Asda Spring Water has been on the shelves for at least five to six years and that their in-house designer produced the label. I then spoke to Whitbread Beer Company who stated ‘Source‘ [was] introduced in March 1998 and the designer of the packaging was Jones Knowles Richie in London. I tried to find out if there was any connection between the two designers i.e. [if] they are the same, but Asda could not help me with this question.
Whitbread were very interested in my complaint and said the Brand Manager would look into it.
I feel [Source] contravenes The Portman Group‘s Code ... under confusion as to the product‘s alcoholic nature and that it is not clearly identified as alcoholic”.
Member of the public from Coventry.
The Panel considered the product sample; two samples of Asda Spring Water; and an extract from The Drink Pocket Book 1999 regarding consumption of bottled spring water. The Panel also referred to an earlier decision in the December 1997 Code Report mentioned by the complainant, viz. ‘Aveq‘ by Matthew Clark Brands Ltd.
Under Code paragraph 3.1(a)
The brand name, product descriptor, packaging (including any containers and any external wrapping), labelling and point of sale materials of any alcoholic drink should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any confusion as to the alcoholic nature and strength of the product, but should clearly communicate the alcoholic nature of the product and its strength to the purchaser or consumer.
Under Code paragraph 3.1(h)(i)
The brand name, product descriptor, packaging (including any containers and any external wrapping), labelling and point of sale materials of any alcoholic drink should not in any direct or indirect way be more likely to appeal to under 18s than adults through, for example the use of imagery or allusion to under 18s culture.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(i)(a)(b)
Unless the overall appearance of the product is clearly one of adult appeal, the name or descriptor of a pre-packaged alcoholic drink/mixer combination should wherever appropriate, specify by its common name the type of alcohol used as an ingredient (for example, “rum and cola”, “vodka and lemonade”); and
(b) the common name of the alcoholic ingredient shall be prominent in terms of colour, style and lettering and field of vision.
Under Code paragraph 3.3
A pre-packaged alcoholic drink/mixer combination must not use, or imply any association with, any name, brand name or product description predominantly associated with under 18s; in particular, words such as lemonade and cola shall be used with the utmost care to avoid any possible confusion with drinks popular to under 18s.
The Panel considered that the product ‘Source’ bore a superficial resemblance to Asda’s Spring Water because of the fruit design which could be seen through the liquid. Nevertheless, the Panel did not consider that there would be any confusion as to the alcoholic nature of ‘Source’ because of the clear wording on the label and the bottle design. In reaching this decision, the Panel took into account the fact that the word ‘vodka’ appeared clearly twice on the front of the bottle and that the ABV was plainly shown. It also took account of the size and shape of the bottle, its metal crown cap and the fact that it was made of glass, all of which were characteristic of an alcoholic drink. Finally, it considered that fruit flavours are not uncommon in alcoholic drinks.
Accordingly the Panel did not uphold the complaint under Code paragraphs 3.1(a) or 3.2(i)(a, b).
In the Panel’s view, spring water was not predominantly associated with under 18s. Hence it did not uphold the complaint under Code paragraph 3.3.
The Panel did not consider that the name of the product, ‘Source’, was more likely to appeal to under 18s than to adults through, for example, an allusion to under 18s culture. For this reason it did not uphold the complaint under Code paragraph 3.1(h) (i).
The Panel wished to make it clear that it was entitled to consider ‘Source’ in relation to the Code as a whole, and not just to the matters referred to by the complainant, despite the manufacturer’s assertion to the contrary. It also pointed out that it did not consider that the complaint about ‘Source’ was “ridiculous”, as the manufacturer had claimed. Finally, the Panel emphasised that the manufacturer’s intimation that it would “question the validity of the complaints process” if the complaint were upheld did not in any way influence the Panel’s decision not to uphold the complaint.
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