‘Irresponsible’ Four Loko packaging banned

An alcoholic energy drink brand has been found in breach of alcohol marketing laws for “encouraging irresponsible consumption.”


Four Loko, an alcoholic fruit flavoured energy drink produced by Chicago-based Phusion Projects, has been banned from using its current packing after objections were raised over the use of the word “loko”.

Three companies, Freespirits Brands (Scotland) Ltd, Yellow House Communications Ltd and Corinthian Brands Ltd, submitted complaints to the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) objecting to the use of the word ‘Loko’ – a name they claimed was synonymous with the Spanish word ‘loco’, meaning ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’.

Phusion Projects said the word ‘four’ referred to the product’s four main ingredients while ‘loko’ characterised the unconventional combination of the ingredients – which was also deliberately misspelled.

However the ICP concluded that as the two words were pronounced the same, they were interchangeable, and a result, the meaning of ‘loco’ was applicable to ‘Loko’.

Given the Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘loco’ as ‘crazy; off one’s head’, the ICP said it was problematic when used in relation to an alcoholic drink, as it could suggest irresponsible or immoderate consumption.

The panel ruled the current packaging was not acceptable under the Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks, established in 1996 to monitor the responsible marketing of alcohol in the UK.

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, which provides the secretariat for the Independent Complaints Panel, said: “Marketing an alcoholic drink which could in any way encourage irresponsible or immoderate consumption is not allowed under UK marketing codes and producers must 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. As a consequence, we will request retailers not to stock the product after 27 May in its current packaging.”

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.”

A “Retailer Alert Bulletin” has been issued informing licensees and retailers not to place orders for stocks of Four Loko in its current packaging after 27 May 2014.

Phusion Projects are currently working with the Portman Group’s Advisory Service on changing the product packaging in order to comply with the Code.

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