Who: Heineken UK Ltd
Where: Advertising Standards Authority
When: 12 February 2014
Law stated as at: 5 March 2014
Two complaints were made to the ASA about a TV ad and a press ad for Kronenbourg 1664; claiming that they misled the consumer by portraying the lager as being produced in France, which the complainants knew was not the case. The ads in question were:
- A press ad containing a statement describing the beer as “French”, brewed with the “Strisselspalt hop”. In small print in the corner of the page was stated “Brewed in the UK”.
- A TV ad, featuring French footballer Eric Cantona, saying “here in Alsace…the hop farmers are treated like the footballers of Britain…they are the men that grow the noble hops that make Kronenbourg the taste supreme”. Similarly, on-screen text stated in the corner of the screen for several seconds, “Brewed in the UK”.
One complainant challenged whether the press ad was misleading because it implied that Kronenbourg 1664 was brewed in France, while actually it was brewed in the UK.
The second challenged whether the TV ad was misleading because it implied that all the hops used to produce Kronenbourg 1664 were grown in France, which again was not the case.
Heineken UK Ltd (“Heineken”) responded that Kronenbourg 1664 was inherently a French beer and that, despite being brewed in the UK, it was brewed to a French recipe in a process supervised and approved by Brasseries Kronenbourg, which are based in Alsace. Heineken stated that the beer’s French character is an integral part of the brand, and even before they had acquired it in 2008, this would have been a familiar concept communicated to customers.
Heineken stated that Kronenbourg 1664 was brewed with the Strisselspalt hop, grown commercially in Alsace, and the ads communicated the provenance of the hop and the character it lent the beer. As a result of its heritage, the origin of its recipe and the use of the Strisselspalt hop, the beer could correctly and reasonably be described as “French” beer. Furthermore, the ad did not state that the beer was brewed in France, and included text stating that it was “Brewed in the UK”.
The ASA’s response
The ASA acknowledged Heineken’s arguments as to the French origins and heritage of the beer, but upheld the complaints, finding that the advertisements breached rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.10 (Qualification) of the Code and prohibited the ads appearing in their current form. The ASA told Heineken UK Ltd to take care not to emphasise a connection with France to the extent that their ads implied that Kronenbourg 1664 was brewed in France, or that all or most of the hops used in the recipe were grown in France.
Why this matters:
Even though text was contained in the advert that stated the beer was brewed in the UK, the ASA held that Heineken could not imply that the beer was brewed in France. The ASA considered that the emphasis in the press ad on the connection of the beer with France would lead consumers to believe that the entire brewing and manufacturing process of the beer took place in France. The print at the corner of the ad stating it was brewed in the UK did not clarify this; rather it contradicted the message of the ad. Therefore the ASA concluded that the press ad was misleading.
As to the complaint about the hops being grown in France, the ASA considered that the emphasis placed on the contribution of French hops to the beer in the TV ad was misleading, because it implied that all or the majority of the hops were sourced from France. Although, the Strisselspalt hops were used by Heineken, and these were sourced from Alsace, the ASA noted that they did not constitute a majority of the total hops used in the recipe for the beer.
This ASA adjudication indicates the importance to marketers of not over-emphasising geographical and other product information in a manner that may be regarded as ;potentially misleading. The inclusion of a printed statement in the ad may also not be sufficient to prevent the ASA finding such statements misleading.