Company: Heineken UK Limited
Breach: NO

Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel

Final Decision: 13 September 2018

Desperados 250ml Can

Heineken UK Limited

Complaint summary:
‘Desperados, is being sold in 250ml cans, same size as energy drinks, this both appeals to under 18 as cost is smaller and size is same as drinks for under 18s. The smaller size also appeals as a down in one or preloading drink.’

Member of the public

Under Code paragraph 3.2(g)

A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way urge the consumer to drink rapidly or to ‘down’ a product in one


Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)

A drink, its packaging and any promotional material should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.


The company’s submission

The company explained that the brand design used on the Desperados 250ml can packaging was consistent across the Desperados range; and, that it was designed to appeal to a mature audience. The company emphasised that it did not believe a 250ml volume can inherently appealed to an under-18 audience; and explained the size was chosen to offer consumers the opportunity to try the unique flavour profile of the product in a smaller volume.

Furthermore, the company refuted the complainant’s view that the 250ml can size encouraged a consumer to ‘down the product in one’ and highlighted that
the product included a prominent responsible drinking message on the back of
the can and did not include any other language to suggest that the product
should be consumed rapidly.

The company stressed that it was an industry leader in responsible drinking
promotion and have committed to ongoing responsible drinking campaigns; this
was a testament to the seriousness with which they took their obligation as a

The company finished by explaining that due to low demand the 250ml can had
been delisted from the brand portfolio as of March 2018.

The Panel’s assessment

The Panel began by acknowledging that the Desperado 250ml Can had been
delisted but confirmed that as it was currently available to purchase within the
UK the complaint would be considered.

The Panel considered the complainant’s view that the size of the container
appealed to under 18’s because it was the same size as an energy drink can,
which the complainant felt appealed to under-18s. They noted that the 250ml
can size did not have a traditional association with soft drinks, and the size of
the can alone did not necessarily lead the product to be problematic under the
Code. The Panel considered the other elements of the can’s design and noted
that the colour palette, although it contained bright and contrasting colours, had
a mature theme. The Panel considered that the language used provided clarity
around its alcoholic content and noted that the font style used on both the front
and back of the can was adult in nature. The Panel concluded that the overall
impression conveyed by the product was consistent with other ready-to-drink
alcohol mixes and did not feel that any aspect of Desperados 250ml had
particular appeal to under 18’s. Accordingly, the Panel did not find the product
in breach of Code rule 3.2(h).

The Panel next considered the product under Code rule 3.2(g). The Panel noted
that the front of the can contained language describing the ingredients such as
‘beer’ and ‘tequila’ and the back of the can contained a ‘drink responsibly
message’. The Panel were clear that a smaller ‘one serve’ container was
different to encouraging a ‘rapid or down in one’ message. The Panel noted
that companies would seek to be innovative in packaging design to offer
consumers a choice in serving size. The Panel concluded that after examining
the can, there was nothing to directly or indirectly promote rapid consumption
of the content. Accordingly, the Panel did not find the product in breach of Code
rule 3.2(g).

Action by Company:
No further action required.