RTD brand Four Loko breaks alcohol marketing rules

By Helen Gilbert

- Last updated on GMT

Portman Group chief said the marketing was too closely associated with irresponsible drinking
Portman Group chief said the marketing was too closely associated with irresponsible drinking
Licensees and retailers in the UK have been advised against placing orders for stocks of Four Loko in its current packaging after it was found to break alcohol marketing rules.

The instruction to refrain placing orders of the Chicago-based Phusion Projects RTD drinks brand in its current packaging after 27 May 2014, was contained in a Retailer Alert Bulletin, after the Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel ruled it breached alcohol responsibility rules for encouraging irresponsible consumption.

The body received three complaints about the use of the word ‘Loko’, suggesting it sounded like ‘loco’ the Spanish word meaning ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’.

Irresponsible

In a statement the Portman Group said: “The independent complaints panel considered that the Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘loco’, listed as ‘crazy, or off one’s head’, was problematic when used in relation to an alcoholic drink, as it could suggest irresponsible or immoderate consumption, and that care must be taken when using the word on packaging or promotional material.”

Portman group chief executive Henry Ashworth said that the marketing of an alcoholic drink which could in any way encourage ‘irresponsible or immoderate consumption’ is not allowed under UK marketing codes and urged producers to be ‘particularly vigilant’.

“In this case, the panel ruled that the way the product was currently packaged, together with its brand feel, was too closely associated with irresponsible drinking,” he said. “As a consequence, we will request retailers not to stock the product after May 27 in its current packaging.” 

Phusion Projects response

Jim Sloan, President of Phusion Projects, said: "We respectfully disagree with the decision of the Independent Complaints Panel of the Portman Group. Phusion Projects has made clear from the outset that the ‘Four Loko’ brand name was intended to refer to the product’s unusual flavours and its four original ingredients.

"We are a responsible producer of alcoholic beverages and actively discourage any irresponsible consumption of our products. To that end, we will continue to work with the Portman Group to refine our UK product packaging.

"We will also continue to undertake and support productive efforts to make sure our products, and all alcoholic beverages, are used legally, safely and responsibly wherever they are sold."

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