Company: Hardknott Brewery
Final Decision: 3 April 2012
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
The label for this product bears the inscription “it’ll be just the tonic that you needed.”, which I believe contravenes the code in that it suggests a medicinal or physically enhancing effect.
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.2(j)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest that the product has therapeutic qualities, or can enhance mental or physical capabilities.
The company’s submission
The company said its products were designed mainly for a small, niche market. In order to reach its target market it required a strong marketing message and it was unreasonable for the Portman Group to seek to inhibit such innovation and enterprising commerce.
The company explained that Vitesse Noir was inspired by an American craft beer: it was highly flavoured, priced as a premium product and recommended to be consumed as a digestif. The company asserted that if the label was read in context, it would be clear that this was the case.
The company believed that it was the word ‘tonic’ which the complainant had used as the basis of the complaint. It went on to point out that pre-packaged ‘Gin and Tonic’ was available in supermarkets and that some producers cited ‘gin and tonic’ as a refreshing pick-me-up.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel considered that certain text on the product label, ‘this beer is so packed full of beans it could have you dancing on the ceiling’, sought to imply that Vitesse Noir could affect physical capabilities, and this interpretation was further supported by accompanying text on the label which read ‘just when you are not sure you can manage the last dance, take a nip and it’ll be just the tonic that you needed’.
Furthermore, the Panel considered it was disingenuous to suggest the interpretation of ‘tonic’, as used on the label of Vitesse Noir was used in the same way as it was in ‘gin and tonic’: the former implying that Vitesse Noir had energising capabilities.
The Panel believed the whole basis of the marketing of Vitesse Noir was as a stimulant and, accordingly, found the product to be in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(j).