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Beer industry warned after ‘Primed’ ruling

The beer industry has been warned about appealing to children after complaints against beers from Welsh brewer Tiny Rebel – including Monstar and Primed – were upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (ICP).

Three of the brewery’s beers, Monstar, TinyFast and Primed were also upheld under Code rule 3.2(h) for having a particular appeal to under-18s. As part of its consideration under the rule, the panel considered the appearance of Tiny Rebel’s logo could sometimes be a “compounding factor when determining a product’s overall appeal to children”.

Tiny Rebel, which has previously found itself in trouble with labelling, produced the beers in January – traditionally associated with ‘Dry January’ – and was also found to have breached the code for encouraging irresponsible consumption and suggesting the products had therapeutic qualities, could enhance mental or physical capabilities, and change mood or behaviour.

TinyFast also fell foul of the code, which states that a product should not urge a consumer to drink rapidly.

The panel noted the branding of Monstar closely resembled Monster Energy, a well-known, non-alcoholic energy drink brand, and the panel concluded that the design and popularity of the brand meant it could appeal to under-18s.

For Primed, the panel made a similar judgement on the “popular cultural phenomenon” of the hydration drink, Prime, which is primarily driven by under-18s and school-aged children.

The Panel also noted the product intentionally mirrored a non-alcoholic drink known for its hydrating and performance enhancing effect and this indirectly suggested it could fulfil the same purpose of the original brand.

Commenting on the decisions, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “It is socially irresponsible for a producer to mimic well-known non-alcoholic drink brands that are marketed on the grounds of weight loss, meal replacement and performance enhancing properties on alcoholic drinks packaging in such a flagrant manner. These cases set new, clear, precedents that all producers should take note of when using well-known non-alcoholic drink brands in alcohol marketing. All brands work hard to ensure that certain connotations are linked with their products and alcohol producers must remember that stricter rules apply in this space.”

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, said: “These precedent setting decisions draw a clear line to let alcohol producers know that there can be serious pitfalls when mimicking well-known non-alcoholic drinks brands. The Independent Complaints Panel do not consider producer intentions when reviewing product packaging, but these cases represent a continuation of concerning behaviour by Tiny Rebel. We have had constructive conversations with them and I sincerely hope the producer learns from this and ensures its products are compliant in the future by working with the Portman Group’s Advisory Service”.

Tiny Rebel issued a statement, stating: “We are proud to have raised a significant amount of money from the sale of each of these beers which went directly into our Tiny Rebel Community Fund. The money raised has already started to be awarded to community projects around the UK. As code signatories and an alcohol producer we take our responsibilities very seriously and have now started to use the Portman Group’s advisory service to sense check our marketing campaigns as well as can designs.”

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