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24th November 2023

Two Northern Monk beers discontinued after complaints upheld

Two beers produced by the brewer Northern Monk – Rocket Lolly IPA and Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale – have been discontinued after complaints by members of the public were upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (Panel).

Rocket Lolly IPA

The Panel ruled that ‘Rocket Lolly IPA’, had a particular appeal to under-18s (Code rule 3.2h) and didn’t communicate the alcoholic nature of the drink with absolute clarity (Code rule 3.1)

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 that 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 noted that frozen rocket lollies are primarily marketed at young children, and that the label included bright contrasting colours and cartoons. It therefore concluded that the product packaging had a particular appeal to under-18s and upheld the complaints under Code rule 3.2(h).

The Panel also found that the alcoholic descriptor ‘IPA’ and the drink’s alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of 4.7% were not easily visible on the packaging because they were presented in a comparatively small black font which was not easily visible against a dark purple background.  The Panel considered that in 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, the packaging should work harder to ensure that it communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity.  Therefore, the Panel also upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.1.

Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale

A complaint was also made against a second Northern Monk beer, Wasted Hot Cross Bun Pale Ale, under Code rule 3.2(f) which states that 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.

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

The Panel acknowledged that the beer was intended to generate discussion about food waste in the UK and that some of its proceeds went to charity. However, the Panel expressed concern about the prominence of the word ‘wasted’ on pack and considered that most consumers would be familiar with the slang interpretation of the word and, when included on an alcoholic drink, it would be more readily associated with a style of consumption rather than food wastage.

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

Northern Monk have now discontinued both products.

Commenting on the decision, the 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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Notes to editors

  1. Images provided
  2. A spokesperson is available for interviews upon request.
  3. The Portman Group was formed in 1989. It is the alcohol industry regulator and social responsibility body. It has over 160 Code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies.
  4. The Portman Group is funded by 19 member and associate member companies: Asahi UK Ltd; Aston Manor Cider; Bacardi; Beam Suntory; Brown-Forman; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Campari; C&C; Diageo GB; Edrington UK; Heineken UK; Mark Anthony Brands International; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Molson Coors Beverage Company; Pernod Ricard UK; Punch Pubs & Co; SHS Drinks; Thatchers’; and Treasury Wine Estates.
  5. The Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks was first published in 1996. In 2021, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Code. The Code seeks to ensure that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not appeal particularly to those who are vulnerable. The Code has helped create an industry that works effectively within the context of a self-regulatory model, while encouraging design, innovation and creativity. This has been done in an effective, responsive and inexpensive way.
  • Effectively – over 170 products have been amended or removed from the market. Many hundreds more have been helped to adhere to the Code before appearing on shelves through the support of the Advisory Service;
  • Responsively – there have been five updates to the Code over 25 years responding to changes in public attitudes and expanding its reach; all without recourse to Government or Parliamentary time;
  • Inexpensively – the leading members of the industry are currently funding the model for all to be protected at no cost to the public purse.

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