Portman Group tells Tiny Rebel to remove teddy bear from beer can

After a second complaint against Newport-based Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch red ale, UK drinks regulator the Portman Group has told the brewer to remove an image of a teddy bear from the beer can in order not to promote underage drinking.

The Portman Group made the comments after a member of the public expressed concern that Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch might appeal to those under 18.

The complaint read: [I] went into my local Waitrose in Caldicot Monmouthshie (sic) and was shocked to find that what I thought was fizzy drinks at the front of the store was alcohol (sic) cans of drink.

“It looks very appealing and bright they look like fizzy energy drinks also. Very clearly aimed at teenagers to encourage them to take up drinking.

“The store manager was very good and agreed that the worst one is the yellow tiny beer […] he said he would be in touch after he has spoken to his head office as he himself was worried that this would lead to underage drinking of alcohol drinks.

“This type of promotion should not be allowed to be displayed on these cans.”

This was the second complaint issued against Tiny Rebel in two years. After the first Portman Group ruling banned the can of Cwtch in its current form, the brewer took measures to appease the regulator.

Tiny Rebel sought advice from the group’s advisory service, which noted that the new packaging “is likely to be fine under the code” but did express concern that the name, cwtch, Welsh for cuddle, could signify that the consumer “will gain a ‘loving feeling’ (rule 3.2j therapeutic properties)”.

Examining the product under two categories – whether the alcoholic nature of the drink was clearly communicated and whether it appealed to under-18s – the Portman Group panel found Tiny Rebel in breach of one rule.

Examining the changes that had been made to the design, including the ABV displayed on the front in white text as wells as ‘Welsh Red Ale’, the regulator ruled that Cwtch sufficiently conveyed the alcoholic nature of the product.

However, the panel still felt that the can could appeal to those under 18. It recommended that the teddy bear be removed from the front of the can, stating that if it appeared on the back or side, it would be more acceptable.

It said the presence of the teddy bear on the front of the can, coupled with the use in the design of a bubble font and bright primary colours, “meant that the product had particular appeal to under-18s”.

A Tiny Rebel spokesperson said: “At Tiny Rebel we have always been committed to ensuring our beers are labelled and marketed responsibly. We appreciate all the work Portman Group put in to regulate the industry. However, we believe that on this occasion Portman Group have made a decision based not on facts but based on the opinion of the 10 people on the independent complaints panel.”

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. We urge all producers to make use of the free advisory service and to give great thought and care to the use of immature imagery and brand logos on the front label of an alcoholic drink.”

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