The group’s independent complaints panel upheld complaints about Brasserie De La Senne’s beer Taras Boulba and Trinchero Family Estates’ Ménage à Trois wine.
Ménage à Trois was deemed to breach the code where it states: “A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with sexual activity or sexual success”.
The panel agreed with the producer’s point that the name was a play on the wine’s combination of three different grape variants.
However, it said although the name was not inherently problematic, the marketing went too far.
It said given the sexual connotations of the name, a producer “would have to work much harder to ensure it was not making a direct link to sex”.
A deliberate link had been made by phrases such as “savour the pleasures of the dark”, being used on the drink’s label, the panel agreed.
Trinchero Family Estates said: “Although we do not agree with the panel’s interpretation under the code, we respect the panel’s view and will undertake to revise the label to remove the mentioned references.”
Beer Taras Boulba was deemed to have breached the code where it states that a drink “should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, antisocial or illegal behaviour”.
The design depicts a Flemish-speaking brewer threatening to throw a barrel at his son for marrying a girl from a French-speaking area.
The beer makers said it was an image designed to mock Belgian politicians, based on the novel Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol.
Stories and satire
They argued the tone of the label was clearly a joke and said no problems had been raised by authorities in other areas selling the beer.
Chair of the panel Jenny Watson said: “The panel sympathised with Brasserie De La Senne, which had entered an unfamiliar market and it was noted that producers could use stories and satire, as well as well-designed labels, for packaging and alcoholic products without breaching the code.
“However, the panel believed that a label depicting a man throwing a beer barrel at a cowering victim on the floor conveyed aggression and further connected the violence to alcohol.”
A complaint made about Brouwerij Huyghe’s Delirium was not upheld. The complaint had stipulated that the name and pink elephant image of the Belgian beer was promoting drunken hallucinations.
The products were randomly selected by the Portman Group following the publication of a new code of practice after food and drink consultancy Zenith Global carried out an audit.