Promotional Warehouse for the Scottish National Party
‘I do not believe that the labelling of this product makes it clear that this is an alcoholic beverage. This is due to the size of text for the alcohol content and nominal volume along with the fact that these pieces of information are upside down, together with the white text on clear background as well as the use of bright colours. 1. Consumers do not know, at first glance, that this is an alcoholic product. 2. The use of bright colours with the legibility issues above may mean that this product is appealing to under 18’s.’
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association
Under Code paragraph 3.1
The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
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 stated that YES Gin was commissioned and created by a small independent distiller who created the drink at the company’s request, and that it was sold through Scottish National Party (SNP) channels only.
The company explained that it had an exclusive merchandising license agreement with the SNP and sold a variety of promotional products, predominantly conventional and eco clothing. The gin was a small part of the multiple items it retailed and only a small number of SKUs had been sold.
The company explained that the Wine and Spirit Trade Association had been in contact directly to raise concerns that the label was in potential breach of EU regulations and the Portman Group Code of Practice. The company explained that it had therefore changed the label to rectify these concerns. The company apologised for the potential breach of the Code and any relevant legislation, which was not intentional.
The Panel’s assessment
Code rule 3.1
The Panel welcomed the information that the company had chosen to make changes to the packaging of YES Gin to improve the communication of the drink’s alcoholic nature. However, the Panel clarified that as the case had been deemed unsuitable for Informal Resolution, it still had to consider the label which was the subject of complaint as the complainant had also raised a concern under Code rule 3.2(h) which had not been addressed in the proposed change. Therefore, the Panel assessed the packaging and considered whether the original label subject to complaint, communicated the drink’s alcoholic nature with absolute clarity.
The Panel noted that the label was fairly simple and not overly busy in design. The Panel noted that some mandatory information, such as the alcohol by volume (ABV) of 40%, was placed upside down in a small box on the front label in small text. The Panel acknowledged the complainant’s concern that a significant amount of text on pack was white on a clear background and could affect the legibility of the information presented.
The Panel discussed the wording of Code rule 3.1 and noted that as part of this, producers were expected to demonstrate compliance with EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers. The Panel also considered that compliance with the law was the responsibility of the producer and that the Code sat alongside the law. The Panel noted that in this particular instance, the product’s ABV text, which had been placed upside down on the front label in very small white text, was smaller than the minimum font size required by labelling legislation and that it was difficult to read. The Panel then considered the wording of Code rule 3.1 as a broad principle rule and agreed that compliance with the rule, specifically to determine whether a product communicated it’s alcoholic nature with absolute clarity, was not a clear cut matter of being able to identify a product as alcoholic ‘at first glance’ as raised by the complainant. Instead, the Panel noted that guidance under Code rule 3.1 stipulated that a product should always be considered in its entirety and assessed as an average consumer would, by picking the product up and considering it from all angles.
The Panel therefore considered the packaging in its entirety and noted that it did contain a number of positive alcoholic cues such as the word ‘Gin’ which appeared five times in legible text, the shape of the bottle, information about the distiller and relevant alcohol health-related information such as the Chief Medical Officers’ Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, the product’s unit content and a pregnancy warning.
After careful consideration of the label as a whole, the Panel stated that while some elements could be presented more clearly, on balance, there was sufficient legible information to establish the drink’s alcoholic nature. The Panel discussed the application of Code rule 3.1 and stated that decisions under the rule should be practical and proportionate and that while the drink’s ABV presentation was unlikely to comply with relevant labelling legislation regarding one element, for the purposes of the Code, there was additional clear, sufficient information to determine that the product was alcoholic. The Panel noted there was nothing else on the product’s packaging which could cause consumer confusion as to the alcoholic nature of the product, such as predominant fruit imagery, a soft drink descriptor or novel packaging. Therefore, the Panel concluded that the packaging did communicate the drink’s alcoholic nature with absolute clarity and accordingly did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.1.
Code rule 3.2(h)
The Panel discussed whether the product could have a particular appeal to under-18s as raised by the complainant. The Panel assessed the packaging and noted that the word ‘YES’ was displayed on the front and back of the packaging in block capitals which were brightly coloured in purple, yellow, green and red. The Panel discussed that while bright colours could contribute to a label appealing to children, the use of bright colours alone would not constitute a particular appeal to under-18s as colours had ubiquitous appeal. The Panel then assessed the rest of the packaging to determine whether there was anything else which could have a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel noted that the bottle shape was typical for a Gin, and the rest of the label was simple in design and did not include elements such as cartoon imagery, thick bold lines or sweet flavours which could appeal to children.
When considering the overall impression conveyed by the packaging, the Panel concluded that the packaging did not have a particular appeal to under-18s and did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
Action by Company: