Northern Monk Brewery
“The word ‘wasted’ is common slang being very, very drunk – by using it in the name of the product and featuring it so prominently on the can, Northern Monk are encouraging immoderate consumption and unwise levels of drunkenness.
I understand that the product is made using hot cross buns that would otherwise be thrown away with the full name (“Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale”) being a reference to that, and that the can has other information that clarifies this. However, the word ‘wasted’ is in the largest font on the can and separated from the second half of the name, and the hashtag #STOPWASTINGFOOD is significantly smaller and placed at the bottom of the label. ‘Wasted’ is therefore the most prominent word on the packaging, with the layout drawing attention to the word by itself rather than the novel nature of the ingredients. The clarification of the ingredients elsewhere is insufficient to mitigate the presentation of the word.”
Member of the public
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.
The company’s submission:
The company explained that one of its core values was ‘community’ and was disappointed to learn of the complaint. The company stated that it consciously considered the positioning and impact of its products within communities at all stages of conception and that it intended to work co-operatively with the Portman Group to address the concerns raised without diluting the intended impact of its messaging.
The company stated it was one of the most premium craft breweries in the UK and a champion of safe and responsible drinking. The company explained that, for context, it was operating in challenging marketing conditions which had led to the closure of many breweries.
The company stated that Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale was a beer series developed in collaboration with a charity called Surplus to Purpose. For every purchase of the beer, a donation was made to the organisation. The company explained that there was a £20 billion food waste crisis in the UK, and the intention of the beer was to highlight, contribute and raise funds for the social mission. The company noted that due to the nature of the charity and the social mission, there were limited ways to articulate the issue to consumers without including the word ‘wasted’ on the drinks packaging.
The company explained that it was dedicated to continuing to support the issue and its partners, and that it would be willing to make minor changes if required to ensure the context of ‘wasted’ was clear. However, the company warned that significant changes to the wording on the drinks packaging would dilute the impact of the message and in turn affect the ability of the product to highlight the issue and fundraise for the charity.
The Panel’s assessment:
The Panel considered the producer’s response and acknowledged that Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale was intended to generate discussion about food waste in the UK and that some proceeds from product sales went to support the charity Surplus to Purpose.
The Panel assessed the overall impression conveyed by the packaging under Code rule 3.2(f). The Panel noted that the word ‘Wasted’ appeared prominently on the front of the label above an image of a hot cross bun, with the text ‘hot cross bun’ and ‘#stopwastingfood’ appearing in a smaller font at the bottom of the packaging. When assessing the product in its entirety, the Panel also considered that there were no other cues on the packaging which denoted drunkenness or immoderate consumption on either the front or back label. In addition to this, the Panel noted the complainant had identified the intention behind the product name and that it was therefore likely that other consumers would also understand the context of its use.
The Panel then discussed the term ‘wasted’ in the context of an alcoholic drink which typically referred to drunkenness or immoderate consumption and expressed fundamental concern about the phrase being used in a tongue in cheek way on an alcoholic product. The Panel considered that most consumers would be familiar with the slang interpretation of the word, and when included on an alcoholic drink, ‘wasted’ would be more readily associated with a style of consumption, rather than food wastage, despite its context on pack. The Panel discussed the producer’s response but disagreed that ‘wasted’ was the only language that could be used to promote its message of using surplus food rather than disposing of it. While the intended messaging of the drink was to promote an important social issue, the Panel was mindful of the need for precedents to leave a relatively narrow margin for the use of terms which describe drunkenness on alcohol packaging. Therefore, when considering the prominence of the word ‘wasted’ on the packaging, and the word’s
primary meaning in relation to alcohol, the Panel concluded that the packaging indirectly encouraged immoderate consumption and drunkenness. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint under 3.2(f).
Action by Company:
Product has been discontinued.