Complaints against three gin products upheld

Jul 4th '22

Complaints against Mango and Black Pepper Gin, Clementine Light Up Snow Globe Gin Liqueur, and Spiced Sugar Plum Light Up Snow Globe Gin Liqueur have been upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (Panel). All three products were considered to have a particular appeal to under-18s, whilst the two Snow Globe Gins also did not clearly communicate the alcoholic nature of the drinks on the packaging. A copy of the full decisions are available herehere and here.


Produced by JG Drinks Ltd t/a Copper in the Clouds, the Panel found Mango and Black Pepper Gin breached Code rule 3.2(h), that 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 complainant stated: “Copper in the Clouds has a range of gin which feature cartoon like imagery such as a tiger in suit with glasses grating pepper onto a mango, as featured on their ”Mango & Black Pepper” gin bottle. The images are colourful and the characters are all anthropomorphic…I believe these images will appeal to children under the age of 18. These characters are not adult in nature”.


The Panel considered that the artistic representation of the tiger and parrot with large eyes prominently displayed on the front of the bottle would have a particular appeal to under-18s. Furthermore, being coupled with a paper wrap around and ribbon was considered to be indicative of a gift and therefore contributed to the particular appeal to under-18s in this particular instance. The Panel therefore upheld the complaint. The company has since agreed to work with the Advisory Service towards amending its product.


The two Snow Globe Gin Liqueurs, produced by Marks & Spencer, were also considered to have breached Code rule 3.2(h), as well as Code rule 3.1 that the alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.


The complainant, a member of the public, stated: “I believe the light-up bottles of gin and other drinks being sold and prominently displayed by Marks and Spencer are in breach of Portman’s rules regarding appeal to children. The lights operate only for a limited time then need switched on again. One can imagine the “Do it again!” cry from children, just as happens with a toy or Christmas decoration with a similar mechanism. These alcoholic drinks are being sold as a novelty which is against the principle of the Portman rules and are encouraging children to see them as a fun item.”


The Panel considered the overall impression of the Clementine Light Up Snow Globe Gin Liqueur which given the depiction of a children’s toy soldier, an interactive light-up feature and gold flakes that created a strong association with a snow globe, the Panel considered that the product had a particular appeal to under-18s. Similarly, the Panel noted that the overall impression conveyed by the Spiced Sugar Plum Light Up Snow Globe Gin Liqueur had the same result with the depiction of a ballerina, interactive light-up feature, contrasting colour scheme and silver flakes to depict snow. The Panel concluded that all these elements meant the product had a particular appeal to under-18s and accordingly upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(h).


On communicating the alcoholic nature for both products, certain information had been placed in small font on the underside of the bottles. The Panel noted that the average consumer would not typically look on the underside of a product for key information to convey the product’s alcoholic nature. Alcohol information also appeared on a swing tag label which was attached with an elasticated string, however the tag was not securely fastened. The Panel also noted that the swing tag was designed as a gift tag with the words ‘to’ and ‘from’ inside which meant that if the product was given as a gift the recipient may be inclined to remove the gift tag as was normal after receiving a gift. The Panel noted that if the tag were removed, either by accident or deliberately, then there would be no clear alcoholic signifiers on the visible sides of the bottle which is where such information would typically be found. The Panel therefore concluded that the products also breached Code rule 3.1.


Since the decision, Marks & Spencer has agreed to work co-operatively with the Portman Group’s Advisory Service to make amends to the products.


Commenting on the decisions, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “I encourage all producers to think carefully about the overall impression conveyed when designing a product that could inadvertently appeal to under-18s. All three products in question had multiple contributing factors in this regard, including their use of  child-friendly images and illustrations. Also, alcoholic drinks must always convey their alcoholic nature very clearly to ensure consumers are fully informed when purchasing. The two gin liqueurs lacked clear indications of this and were thus upheld.”


Marks and Spencer was invited to comment and said “We do not agree with the Panel’s interpretation under the Code but, given their view, we will work with the Portman Group to make some changes to our gin globes in future.” – comment provided at the discretion of PG to retain and publish.


Source: Portman Group


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