The Independent Complaints Panel has upheld a recent complaint about Sweet Little Drinks (Sweet Little Glitter Bubble Gum Gin Liqueur, Sweet Little Glitter Bomb Love Heartz and Sweet Little Pink Vanilla Candy Floss Gin Liqueur). The complaint was referred to us from the Advertising Standards Authority, with concern expressed that the Sweet Little Drinks appear to promote alcohol to children through the labels, artwork, product names, the colouring and bottle shapes, along with the brand name “Sweet Little”.

Reviewing the products in detail, the Panel felt:

  • They may have a particular appeal to children and look like part of a children’s confectionary range.
  • They could be considered to look more similar in design to a bubble bath product than an alcoholic drink, if they were placed in a home environment.
  • The face in the “Sweet Little” logo was the profile of young girl’s face and conveyed the impression that the brand was not targeting an adult market.
  • The direct link to the Love Hearts sweet brand together with the Love Heart style of font used and the dark pink colour of the drink, could lead the product to appeal to teenage girls.
  • In the case of Sweet Little Glitter Bomb Bubble Gum Gin Liqueur and Glitter Bomb Love Heartz Gin Liqueur, despite containing positive alcoholic descriptors on the bottle, these were in a difficult to read font on a clear label on a glitter based product which may cause further consumer confusion as to the alcoholic nature of the product.

The Panel concluded that the cumulative impact of “sweetie” cues on each individual label, together with the “Sweet Little” brand name and logo, had unintentionally created a particular appeal to under 18s in each case.  The Panel felt that Sweet Little Drinks need to make an effort to ensure that they do not cause any consumer confusion or appeal to children, by going to greater lengths when communicating their alcoholic nature. The Panel therefore accordingly upheld the complaint against the products under Code Rule 3.2(h).

Commenting on the decision by the Independent Complaints Panel, Hani Fashhou, Chief Executive, Sweet Little Drinks said: “Whilst we are happy that the Independent Complaints Panel accepted that we never intentionally aimed our products at children, we are also very grateful that the Panel have identified that these products may appeal to under 18s. We are now working very closely with The Portman Group’s Advisory Service to comply with the Code and rebrand Sweet Little Drinks, which will be ready to launch in the very near future.”

Commenting on the decision by the Independent Complaints Panel, a Portman Group spokesperson said: “This decision by the Independent Complaints Panel highlights once again that producers should steer away from using imagery in marketing and labelling that could have particular appeal to children. Producers should think carefully about what is conveyed by the overall impression of the product and speak to our Advisory Service if in any doubt. We are pleased that Sweet Little Drinks are working with us to amend their product range.”


Notes to editors:

  1. A copy of the full decision from the Independent Complaints Panel (Panel) can be read here.
  2. All complaint decisions made by the Panel are available on the Portman Group website.
  3. The Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks applies to, all pre-packaged alcoholic drinks and the promotional activities of all drinks producers. A copy of the Code may be downloaded here.
  4. This complaint was considered under the fifth edition of the Code of Practice. The sixth edition of the Code was published on 4th March and will come into full effect on 23rd September 2019. Complaints received after 23rd September will be subject to the rules in the sixth edition.
  5. The Panel, which hears complaints, is chaired by Jenny Watson CBE. The other members of the Panel are: David Macdonald, Angela McNab, Rosalie Weetman, Jon Collins, Graeme Mckenzie, Claire Fowler, Daniel Jourdan and Rachel Childs. More information on the Panel can be found here.
  6. Since the Code was introduced in 1996, the packaging and/or marketing of over 140 drinks have been found to breach the Code. In the case of a Code breach concerning a drink’s packaging or point-of-sale material, a timetable for implementing the necessary changes – not normally exceeding three months – will be supplied in writing to the company concerned. Retailers may be notified of the decision taken by the Independent Complaints Panel and requested not to replenish stocks or point-of-sale material of any product found in breach of the Code, after the date specified by the Code Secretariat.
  7. The Portman Group provides a free and confidential Advisory Service for alcohol producers to check products prior to launch and seek advice on responsible alcohol marketing. Over 2000 separate advice requests have been answered since 2010. Email: advice@localhost.
  8. The Portman Group is the alcohol industry regulator. It is funded by its eight member companies: Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands UK; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Carlsberg UK; Diageo GB; Heineken UK; Jägermeister UK; Molson Coors Brewing Company UK; Pernod Ricard UK.
  9. Images of “Sweet Little” Drinks are available on request.