12 June 2014
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
“The concerns for this product are that it breaches the codes at 3.2(f) and 3.2(h):
3.2(f). This product has a 1.4l capacity and is presented in a colourful and fun way that would encourage irresponsible or immoderate consumption. The nature of the product makes it unlikely a consumer would be able to know how much alcohol there was in a drink drawn from the cauldron.
3.2(h). Halloween is widely recognised as a children focused evening, in particular with dressing up and trick or treating. The presentation of this product alongside the promotional posters, table talkers and mobiles would resonate with U18’s and make the product attractive towards them.”
Northampton Borough Licensing Team
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(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 Halloween was a key social occasion amongst 18-25 year old adults. Consumers now had a different perception of cocktails in such an environment compared to the European ‘holiday’ experience or higher strength cocktail bar offering. As offerings were becoming more diverse, consumers were expecting more unique offerings from brands and retailers.
The company stated that in an attempt to meet this demand they wanted to promote the theatre and occasion of sharing a unique cocktail vessel with friends. The company explained that they were particularly conscious of not encouraging excessive drinking and that this was reflected in the ‘made for sharing’ message on all point of sale materials.
The company went on to say that the 1.4l capacity of the vessel was to allow for ice/mixers and, furthermore, the unit amount in the cocktail was often lower than traditional perceptions due to measured serves (as opposed to the free-pour style). In this particular case, each serving vessel contained between 3 and 4 units (the Chief Medical Officers’ recommended individual daily limit) and 1.5–2 units when shared by two people. Finally, the controlled alcohol serve managed by bar staff who received regular training, the use of WKD bottles with a clear measurement of spirits plus mixers/ice ensured that the price per unit kept the product premium, as opposed to a vessel that encouraged immoderate consumption.
The company acknowledged that Halloween sat alongside Christmas and Easter as an opportunity for sales and appealed to adults aged 18-25 years of age. The company presented research from a pub retailer that demonstrated that Halloween was the UK’s third highest spending annual occasion after Christmas and Easter, which reflected that it was a key adult occasion in the on-trade and not one that had a particular appeal to under-18s.
The company presented new point of sale materials in response to the complaint in order to strengthen the sharing message going forward. In its subsequent response the company reiterated its commitment to amend its guidance to bar staff so that it was clear that the cauldron should be served with glasses so that the contents of the cauldron should be poured and shared.
The Panel’s assessment
Firstly, the Panel considered whether as a Halloween-themed promotion, the promotion would resonate with, and therefore appeal particularly to, under-18s. The Panel noted that over the years Halloween had become popular amongst adults and was no longer for the exclusive enjoyment of children. Furthermore, the Panel noted that the promotion was restricted to the on-trade environment where the vast majority of people would be over the age of 18. In light of this, the Panel concluded that the promotion did not have a particular appeal to under-18s and did not uphold the complaint under Code paragraph 3.2(h).
The Panel then went on to consider whether the promotion encouraged immoderate and/or irresponsible consumption. The Panel noted that the company had clearly thought about how the contents of the vessel were to be mixed and the maximum number of units to be served in a vessel, and this was evident from the instructions and training provided to bar staff. The company had also presented a ‘made for sharing’ message on the point of sale material, albeit small in relation to the other information on the material. However, the Panel noted that it was not clear from the point-of-sale material, or from the response the company had submitted, how the vessel was ultimately presented to consumers, i.e. whether it was served with glasses so that the contents could be decanted into the glasses, or with straws so that the consumer consumed straight from the vessel.
The Panel felt that if the vessel was served with glasses then a consumer could, to an extent, have an indication of how much they were consuming. If the vessel was served with straws, and the consumer had to drink straight from the vessel, a consumer would not necessarily know how much they had consumed. Where it was difficult to establish how much one consumer had consumed, the Panel felt more importance needed to be on the share message. In this respect, the Panel welcomed the changes the company had made to future marketing material because it conveyed the ‘share’ message in both text and visual representation through the depiction of the glasses, and the vessel had been amended to include a pouring ‘lip’, further emphasising that the vessel was designed so that the contents should be poured into glasses. Based on the fact it was not clear how the vessel was served to the consumers, and that consumers might therefore be drinking directly from the vessel and not be able to gauge how much they consumed, the Panel decided that the nature of the vessel and minimal share message led the product to encourage irresponsible consumption. Although the Panel noted the further assurance the company made in its subsequent response to amend its guidance to bar staff, its decision was based on the material that was subject to the complaint and accordingly, the Panel found the product in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(f).
Action by company
The company is working with Portman Group’s Advisory Service so that similar future promotions convey the share message clearly.