A complaint about Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch beer was upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel after a member of the public argued the bright branding of the Welsh red ale looked like a fizzy energy drink and could appeal to teenagers.
The brewery was forced to change the drink’s branding in 2017 after a ruling from the group deemed it to breach its code of practice.
The panel said it had particular appeal to under-18s owing to its teddy bear imagery, bubble writing font and bright colours.
However, the group agreed the drink communicated its alcoholic contents clearly in its design and it was “unlikely to be confused with a soft drink”.
A Tiny Rebel spokesperson said it was committed to responsible marketing and appreciate the work of the group to regulate the industry.
They added: “However, we believe that, on this occasion, Portman Group has made a decision based not on facts but based on the opinion of the 10 people on the Independent Complaints Panel."
SIBA chief executive James Calder expressed his concern with the ruling and said it was evidence the code needed to back small brewers more.
Calder said: “It is frustrating to see the Portman Group complaints panel force Welsh brewer Tiny Rebel through this process again, given that the brewery consulted with the standards body and made recommended changes to its flagship Cwtch beer two years ago.
“Self-regulation of the industry is important and, in most cases, works very well but this episode highlights how the Portman Group and the code needs to work better for the UK’s small brewers.”
A Portman Group spokesperson said: “It is highly unusual for the panel to uphold a product twice within a two-year period but, unfortunately, they felt there remains a significant risk that the design, although amended, has particular appeal to under-18s.”
A similar complaint was made about Oakham Ale’s Thrillseeker that a brightly coloured spaceman design would mean children would mistake it for a non-alcoholic drink.
The complaint about Thrillseeker was upheld for breaching the code’s instruction that a drink “should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado,” which its name did.
The group also agreed the drink needed to communicate its alcoholic nature on its packaging with “absolute clarity”, which it did not currently because of the “busy label”.
However, the complaint was not deemed to breach the rule that a drink should not “in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s” as its graphic novel style design was “more adult in nature”.