Western Australia’s Cheeky Monkey Brewing has fallen foul of advertising regulations, highlighting the ongoing issues around marketing and packaging in the craft brewing industry.
The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme adjudication panel upheld a complaint made on 2nd May that suggested the brewery’s packaging appealed to minors.
The complaint related to six Cheeky Monkey products including the brewery’s mid, pale ale, West Coast IPA and lager can packaging, as well as its bottle packaging for its cider and session ale products.
The anonymous complainant was concerned that the promotion of the beers on the company’s website, as well as its Facebook and Instagram accounts, could appeal to minors.
The complainant said that the images portrayed are similar to children’s cartoon character ‘Curious George’ and combine bright colours and graphics that make the products look more like a soft drink than an alcoholic beverage.
The ABAC Code states that marketing communications must not have a strong or evident appeal to minors.
Cheeky Monkey responded to the complaint on the 12th of May, saying that the monkey cartoons featured on the packaging were symbolic of the company’s ‘cheeky’ and ‘mischievous’ values. It has only recently undertaken a rebrand of its packaging to reflect this.
It argued that “a quick glance at any craft beer fridge would show far greater ‘childlike’ elements on packaging from other breweries than what is used on ours”.
In a technical analysis, the ABAC panel found that two of the cans – IPA and Mid – breached guidelines. It found that because of the colour contrasts, star images and bubble with the Cheeky Monkey brand name on, the cans could be appealing imagery for minors. The panel said that the terms ‘IPA’ and ‘Mid’ were “not so widely recognised of themselves to clearly identify the products as alcoholic”.
In a written response to the complaint, Cheeky Monkey said: “We accept the panel’s decision, however, I would like to mention that we feel the clause regarding ‘IPA’ and ‘Mid’ are not accurate”.
“IPA is the most popular craft beer style in Australia, as found in the attached survey a whopping 31% voted it as their favourite and 79% voted it as their most consumed,” the brewery continued.
“Which I think means it is very well known. ‘Mid’ is also found on many mass-produced beer brands such as Carlton Mid.”
The ABAC panel highlighted that Cheeky Monkey had co-operated with its complaints process despite not being a signatory.
The panel also considered the complainant’s concern that the company website and social media accounts also appeal to minors and do not employ age verification of restriction to exclude minors and found that the brewery had breached the guidelines by not using age restriction controls.
Cheeky Monkey explained that its website was under development at the time of the complaint. They said it was not ‘live’ and age restrictions were only put in place once the website became ‘live’, however the adjudication panel found that this did not relieve it of its obligations when its site was accessible to the public.
Brent Burton, managing director of Cheeky Monkey, told Brews News the brewery respected ABAC’s decision.
“Their role is an important one and as soon as we received the complaint we notified our trading partners,” he said.
“We respect their role and want to make that clear. It’s not ideal but it’s not catastrophic. We’re working with our trading partners and they have assured us they’d be working with us throughout the process.”
Burton said they would be making small alterations to the packaging to ensure it complies with ABAC’s code and ruling, but not pulling the beers.
He said that any brewer that was thinking of doing a core range beer should consider ABAC’s pre-vetting service.
“ABAC is a great service and they’re not going to stop playing their role in the industry,” Burton said.
“So if you’ve got core range products [rather than a limited edition beer] and you’re planning on having them on the shelf for a long time then pre-vetting is a good idea. The service is seamless and communication was clear and reasonable.
“The way a brewery communicates with its audience is being scrutinised and you’ve got to play within the rules.”
Although the brewery, like many craft breweries, is not a signatory of the ABAC code, it applied for pre-vetting for its West Coast IPA packaging prior to the complaint, which was rejected.
Cheeky Monkey has dealt with ABAC before when it upheld a complaint over the naming of its Ri-beer-na Berliner Weisse, a limited edition rather than a core range beer.
The parody beer, ABAC found, could be mistaken for popular blackcurrant drink Ribena by children.