Yonder Brewing & Blending Limited.
Member of the public.
“This afternoon my 13 year old daughter chose a can of drink from the chiller cabinet at Gloucester Services northbound service station. Attached photo, Yonder pink lemonade. She gave it to me, I bought it and gave it back to her to drink. When she opened the can, thankfully she thought it smelt a bit odd so asked me about it, it was only then I realised it was alcohol. I was pretty shocked as you can imagine. Why Gloucester services are selling this as single cans in a fridge next to fizzy flavoured water I have no idea, especially when their customers are drivers and largely families.
But my main concern is the branding if this drink. It is completely irresponsible. Has direct appeal to young girls in particular and is totally hiding its alcoholic content. I see from a brief scan of your guidance document point 3.1 which this drink in no way complies with.
“In my view this drink ought to be pulled from the shelves and rebranded before it’s allowed to be retailed. I now see from the brewers website many of their other products are similar in their masking of their alcoholic nature and also need addressing. I have no experience of the alcoholic industry are you able to help to address my concerns or ought I to be contacting trading standards or similar?
These kind of products really are letting our younger generation down and this one could also cause serious injury with adults it being retailed in a service station!”
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 it took all complaints seriously and was sorry to learn that a complaint had been made about the branding of Yonder Pink Lemonade IPA.
The company explained that the branding of Pink Lemonade was intended to reflect the product inside the can. The company stated that the product’s alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) was clearly depicted on the front label, while the back label also included the ABV, unit content, the word ‘beer’ and responsible drinking logos; all of which communicated the product’s alcoholic nature.
The company disagreed with the complainant’s view that the drink’s packaging had a direct appeal to young girls as it believed this was a subjective viewpoint. The company highlighted that 99% of its customers were independent specialist bottle shops and bars, which specialised in alcoholic drinks. The company stated that there was little danger of a person under 18 years of age picking up or purchasing the drink. The company committed to investigate the incident described in the complaint with the retailer in question to ensure its products were retailed in the alcohol section of the store.
Finally, the company stated that it would also review the clarity of information on the front and back of the packaging, and if such information could be made clearer to avoid a similar situation in the future, it would take action to do so.
The Panel’s assessment:
The Panel discussed the Portman Group’s accompanying guidance for Code rule 3.1 which stated that when determining whether the alcoholic nature of a drink had been communicated with absolute clarity regard would be given to a drink’s compliance with Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers and the UK Food Information Regulations 2014. However, the Panel also noted that guidance stipulated that compliance with the law would not be the only determining factor in judging compliance with the Code under rule 3.1. The Panel noted that packaging could still be found in breach of the Code if it had the potential to mislead about its alcoholic nature or was likely to cause consumer confusion.
The Panel discussed Loose Juice as a comparable precedent under rule 3.1 and noted that, in that instance, the packaging had a number of positive alcohol cues which clearly communicated the drink’s alcoholic nature, despite the reference to ‘Juice’. The Panel also considered Blossom Hill Spritz as a related precedent and noted that any alcoholic drink which used words or language commonly associated with a soft drink needed to work harder to communicate its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity to minimise the potential for consumer confusion.
The Panel assessed the packaging of Pink Lemonade and noted the presentation of ‘Pink Lemonade’ in large prominent bubble writing on the front label. The Panel considered that ‘Pink Lemonade’ was a well-known soft drink that most consumers would be familiar with and was not a descriptor typically associated with beer or alcohol. The Panel noted that underneath ‘Pink Lemonade’ the product used the secondary descriptor ‘fruit and flower citrus sour’ in smaller, thinner lettering and that this was positioned above the drink’s ABV of ‘4%’ at the bottom of the can. The Panel discussed ‘sour’ as a descriptor and acknowledged that some consumers, particularly those who were familiar with the craft beer category, might recognise the word as a reference to a type of beer. However, the Panel considered that ‘sour’ as a beer descriptor was not particularly well-known without a more direct reference to alcohol such as ‘sour beer’ and that in this case, the proceeding descriptive words of ‘fruit and flower citrus’ compounded the link to a soft drink with no clarifying alcoholic descriptor on the front label.
The Panel noted that while the product’s ABV was included on the front of the label, its presentation was far less prominent, with ‘Pink Lemonade’ the dominant theme of the label, secondary to the company’s name ‘Yonder’. The Panel also noted that the presentation of the company name did not include the word ‘Brewing’ which could have created an additional positive alcohol cue on the front label. The Panel discussed the yellow and pink gradient colours which created a further link to pink lemonade, as yellow and pink were colours typically associated with non-alcoholic lemonade and further enhanced the drink’s link to a soft drink.
The Panel then assessed the back label and noted the inclusion of some positive alcohol cues such as the drink’s ABV, unit content, a responsible drinking message and reference to beer. However, the Panel also noted that text on the back label referred to ‘citrus juice’, ‘adult version of a childhood favourite’, ‘sweetness and acidity’ and ‘rose water and blackcurrant juice’. While the Panel noted that the required information under rule 3.1 did not need to be present on the front label, the Panel considered that the language used on the packaging primarily focused on the drink’s fruit flavours and, in the wider context of ‘Pink Lemonade’, was likely to cause confusion for consumers as to whether the drink contained alcohol, as evidenced by the complainant’s experience.
When assessing the overall impression conveyed by the product packaging, the Panel considered that the prominence of the typically non-alcoholic ‘Pink Lemonade’ name, in combination with the secondary descriptor ‘fruit and flower citrus sour’, the back label text which included multiple references to non-alcoholic fruit flavours and the comparatively minimal references to alcohol, were likely to cause confusion for consumers when assessing the drink’s alcoholic nature, which additionally in this case had been evidenced by the complainant. Therefore, the Panel concluded that the drink’s packaging did not communicate its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity and upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.1.
The Panel noted the company’s willingness to review the front and back label to avoid a similar situation in the future and welcomed this part of its response.
The Panel then considered whether there was anything on the packaging which could have a particular appeal to under-18s as raised by the complainant. The Panel observed that the packaging used a gradient of pink and yellow but noted that the inclusion of bright colours was not enough to create a particular appeal to under-18s under the Code. The Panel considered the overall impression conveyed by the packaging and noted that ‘Pink Lemonade’ was presented in a bubble writing style and that the label incorporated ‘doodle’ style drawings of stars, circles and crosses as well as the company logo which was a simple cartoon image. The Panel also noted that the back label included the phrase ‘adult version of a childhood favourite’ which was designed to evoke a sense of nostalgia. The Panel considered that while these elements had a level of appeal to younger people, none of them individually, or when combined, were enough to constitute a particular appeal to under-18s. Therefore, on balance, the Panel concluded that the product did not have a particular appeal to under-18s and did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).
Action by Company:
Made amends to product packaging to bring in line with the Code.