Ten products produced by independent brewer Direct Beers Ltd have been found to breach the Portman Group's Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks.
The Independent Complaints Panel ruled that Cat Piss, Dog Piss, Bullshit, Dandelion & Birdshit, Big Cock, Arse Liquor, Puke, Shitfaced, Yellow Snow and Knobhead , all beers, breached the provisions of the Code.
All of the products were found to contravene Paragraph 3.2(h) of the Code, which states that drinks, packaging or promotional material should not have particular appeal to under-18s.
In addition, Puke, Shiitfaced and Knobhead were deemed to encourage illegal, irresponsible, or immoderate consumption (contrary to Paragraph 3.2f). Big Cock and Knobhead were found in breach for suggesting an association with sexual activity
(contrary to Paragraph 3.2d); whilst Shitfaced and Yellow Snow were found in breach for suggesting an association with bravado, violence, aggression, or anti-social behaviour (contrary to Paragraph 3.2b).
Complaints to the Panel regarding Direct Beers' Grumpy Git and Lazy Sod products, however, were not upheld.
All of the complaints about Direct Beers were submitted by the Public Health Team at Newcastle City Council.
Direct Beers asserted that none of its products were intended to appeal to under-18s, and explained that the vast majority of its drinks were sold in person at retail events, where it operated a Challenge 25 policy.
The Panel was concerned, however, that frequent references to scatological humour, defecation, urination, genitalia, vomiting and other bodily functions could prove particularly attractive to under-18s. It also noted that this appeal was
exacerbated by the cartoon illustrations shown on a number of the products.
Henry Ashworth, Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, said:
It is vitally important that alcohol producers ensure that their drinks do not in any way appeal to children, encourage violence, anti-social behaviour or immoderate drinking, or make references to sexual activity. There is a place for humour in
alcohol marketing, as the Panel's decisions on Grumpy Git and Lazy Sod show -- but it is important to know where to draw the line."
Direct Beers has not yet confirmed whether it will make any amendments to its products.
A complaint about the packaging of Cwtch Welsh Red Ale (330ml can) has been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel for having a particular appeal to under-18s and indirectly encouraging immoderate consumption.
The complainant, a member of the public, believed that the product wasn't obviously alcoholic, due to the design, and also had a particular appeal to children.
When considering the image of the bear on the front of the can, and its positioning alongside the wording Tiny Rebel, the Panel agreed that the packaging indirectly encouraged immoderate consumption. The Panel also considered the prominence of
the bear above the wording Tiny Rebel, in combination with the graffiti and swirling primary colours, caused the product to have a particular appeal to under-18s.
While considering the ruling, the Panel recognised Tiny Rebel's social responsibility work in their local community and highlighted that they had not deliberately sought to create product packaging which had an appeal to under-18s.
The Portman Group also acknowledged the positive way in which the producer has engaged with the Advisory Service throughout the complaint process and welcomed its early commitment to respect the Panel's ruling.
Nostalgic references to the sweets, clothes and cartoons of yesteryear saw a number of drinks fall foul of the alcohol marketing rules last year, according to the Portman Group's annual report.
The Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Jenny Watson CBE, has urged marketers to be careful if they use retro designs which appeal to an adult's inner child because they may inadvertently also appeal to children today.
Three of the five cases that came before the Independent Complaints Panel in 2017 were about the use of nostalgia-based designs with complainants concerned that references to retro sweets, clothes and cartoons could have particular appeal to
children. In two of the cases, the complaints were upheld.
The majority of complaints received were under Code rules about particular appeal to under-18s and whether the alcoholic nature of the drink was communicated with clarity.
The Portman Group is currently updating its Code of Practice with the consultation running until the 6th July.