ABAC rules against Star Wars-themed beer

Alcohol advertising watchdog ABAC has ruled that Hop Nation’s Jedi Juice has breached rules relating to alcohol marketing and minors.

The advertising watchdog’s panel investigated a complaint about the NEIPA which features a Princess Leia-style character from the Star Wars universe.

The complaint covered both the name and the artwork on the packaging of Jedi Juice, and said that the beer’s packaging breached rules that stipulate that alcohol marketing should not have a strong or obvious appeal to minors.

The anonymous complainant said that his concerns about the packaging were raised when he went to a bottleshop with a friend’s teenage boys (14-15) and “they were very excited when they saw the ‘Jedi Juice’ packaging asking if they could purchase it as it was ‘so cool’.”

Hop Nation argued that Star Wars is a pop culture phenomenon for a wide demographic, and that the average Star Wars devotee is a male aged 18-44.

The brewery also pointed out that there have been an array of other Star Wars-themed alcohol products that have not been investigated by ABAC – an argument which the panel said was “understandable” but could not have any weight on its decision.

The brewer argued that the animation is clearly graffiti-style rather than a cartoon, and that it is similar to other Hop Nation products that have received pre-vetting approval from an ABAC panel.

However ABAC responded to this latter point saying that the public complaints process and the decisions reached by the panel are completely separate from the advice given by the ABAC pre-vetting service. It also pointed out that Jedi Juice’s packaging was not pre-vetted.

ABAC went into detail regarding its thought process during its ruling on Jedi Juice, and ruled out using the usual demographic of Jedi Juice’s audience, its premium price point and actual taste as identifiers of it as an adult-focused product.

Despite Hop Nation’s arguments, the adjudication panel said that the test was how the marketing communication would be understood by a “reasonable person”.

Like many independent brewers, Hop Nation is not a signatory to ABAC and not contractually obliged to abide by panel decisions. However it has made use of ABAC pre-vetting service in relation to its pilsner The Damned, The Heart Pale Ale and The Punch, a mango gose.

“The willingness of individual craft brewers such [as] Hop Nation to engage with the ABAC Scheme is to be commended and demonstrates that the Company takes seriously its social license responsibilities,” the panel acknowledged.

Hop Nation is seeking a rehearing of the determination and sent a detailed response to ABAC, but Correction. Hop Nation has advised they accept the decision and will not be seeking a rehearing.

Sam Hambour, co-founder of Hop Nation told Brews News that they understood the importance of the code and would be looking to work with panel going forward.

“The idea is to work through our packaging, we’ve got a year’s worth of packaging to get through and we’ll work with ABAC to change the packaging going forward.

“For us, we use a lot for creativity in our artwork and some people will perceive that as appealing to a broad spectrum depending on viewpoint, you can’t win them all.“

The Melbourne brewer first released the Jedi Juice NEIPA style beer for a festival in May 2017, and it has been voted in top 10 of GABS Hottest 100 beers.

Read the full decision here.

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