Craft brewers ‘singled out for bright and colourful’ branding

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Design canned: the beer branding has been found to appeal to under-18s
Design canned: the beer branding has been found to appeal to under-18s
A Scottish brewery has hit out at the Portman Group after it upheld a complaint against one of the brewer’s beers, claiming the watchdog singles out craft for its packaging.

A complaint against Drygate Brewing Company’s Disco Forklift Mango Pale Ale was upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel under the code of practice on alcohol marketing. A full copy of the complaint can be seen here.

The complainant, Aberdeen Alcohol and Drug Partnership, raised a number of issues against the product, including appealing to under-18s, associations with bravado and antisocial behaviour, associations with illicit drugs, and for depicting images of under 25s.

The Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel considered the overall impression conveyed by the product, in particular, the beer’s bright colours, illustrations and the accompanying language on the side of the can, which included the words ‘mango’, ‘fandango’, ‘tropical’, ‘juicy’, ‘fruits’, and ‘sweet’.

The panel said the combination of colours, the language used and the nature and behaviour of the cartoon illustrations on the 330ml can, meant the product did have, however unintentionally, a particular appeal to under-18s.

It also decided the product was in breach of code rule 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.

Unfairly singled out

It upheld the complaint under code rule 3.2 (b), a drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or antisocial behaviour, for suggesting an association with dangerous behaviour.

Following the decision, Drygate has decided to redesign the artwork of the beer, while operations director Matt Corden told The Morning Advertiser ​his thoughts on the decision.

He said:  “Craft brewers tend to be unfairly singled out based on the fact we use bright, colourful and interesting artwork on our products.

“We have taken it on the chin and said we will change the artwork on the can and are in discussions with the Portman Group advisory service.”

The company’s response stated it takes its responsibility as a brewer very seriously and this was the first complaint it had received, despite distributing hundreds of thousands of cans since its product launch.

It also stated the beer it produces is high quality and is priced at a point that specifically discourages alcohol abuse.

Respectfully disagree

Drygate also said it “respectfully disagreed” with the panel’s advice that the can’s design may be problematic under code rule 3.2(h).

The company explained the design of the can featured sophisticated illustrations that were intended to be bright and whimsical to reflect the sci-fi interests of their target market. The company argued that none of these elements would have a particular appeal to under-18s when considered alongside the appeal the product would hold for its 25+-year-old target market.

The brewery also addressed the panel’s finding that the cartoon depiction of a character dancing on a forklift was in breach of code rule 3.2(b). The company accepted the panel’s finding on this point, and advised it was in the process of reviewing the artwork and would work with the Portman Group’s advisory service. 

The Portman Group Independent Complaints Panel secretary John Timothy said: “Innovative and colourful designs are not problematic in themselves, but producers have to be mindful of the overall impression of the product and design.

“I commend Drygate for the responsible and constructive way in which it has responded to this complaint and the speed it has committed to amend the design.” 

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