Northern Monk discontinues two beers after complaints

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Complaints upheld: Northern Monk discontinues two beers
Complaints upheld: Northern Monk discontinues two beers

Related tags Beer Social responsibility Portman group

Leeds-based brewer Northern Monk has discontinued two of its seasonal products after complaints against the beers were upheld by the Portman Group.

The brand’s Rocket Lolly IPA and Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale were found to have a particular appeal to under-18’s and did not communicate the alcoholic nature of the drink with absolute clarity.

A spokesperson for Northern Monk said: “We’re on a mission to create incredible beer experiences. Hopefully some of the best in the world.

"We welcome any and all feedback on that journey. We have taken on board feedback from the Portman Group which will inform future decisions around pack design. As seasonal products both Rocket Lolly and Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale are not on sale at this time.”

The complaints panel noted frozen rocket lollies are primarily marketed at young children, and the label included bright contrasting colours and cartoons.

Common slang

It therefore concluded the product packaging had a particular appeal to under-18s and upheld the complaints under Code rule 3.2(h).

Regarding Rocket Lolly IPA, one complainant said: “We have raised our 4-year-old to understand what alcohol is and why he is not permitted to try it.

“However, when he saw his dad drinking this beer and heard that it was called Rocket Lolly, he became very upset he wasn't allowed to try it, even after we made clear it was beer.

“Of the dozens of different can designs he's seen; this is the only one that has ever held appeal to him.”

The panel also found the alcoholic descriptor ‘IPA’ and the drink’s alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of 4.7% were not easily visible on the packaging as they were presented in a comparatively small black font that was not easily visible against a dark purple background. 

In addition, the panel considered the context of a well-known frozen ice lolly, which made a virtue of its fruit flavours in design and was not a product typically associated with alcohol, noting the beer’s packaging should work harder to communicate its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity. 

Therefore, the Panel also upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.1.

A complaint was also made against Northern Monk’s Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale, under Code rule 3.2(f) which states a drink, its packaging or any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible, or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking, or drunkenness.

It said: “The word wasted is common slang for being very drunk […and] the most prominent word on the packaging.”

The Panel acknowledged the beer was intended to generate discussion about food waste in the UK and that some of its proceeds went to charity.

Fallen foul 

However, the group expressed concern about the prominence of the word ‘wasted’ on pack and considered most consumers would be familiar with the slang interpretation of the word and, when included on an alcoholic drink, it could be more readily associated with a style of consumption rather than food wastage.

On this basis, the panel concluded the packaging indirectly encouraged immoderate consumption and drunkenness and upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(f).

Northern Monk have now discontinued both seasonal products.

Interim chair of the independent complaints panel Rachel Childs said: “I welcome that Northern Monk has decided to discontinue both beers which in this instance have fallen foul of the code.

“Producers of alcoholic drinks should take care to ensure their products are marketed responsibly, without a particular appeal to children and that they do not encourage, even indirectly, immoderate consumption.

“I would encourage all producers who are unsure of the requirements under the code to contact the Portman Group’s free and confidential advisory service.”

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