The UK watchdog upheld too complaints against Kronenbourg 1664 adverts – one for implying that the beer is brewed in France, and the other for overstating the importance of French hops, given that (eye catchingly) other hops used are not grown in that country.
A Heineken spokesman told BeverageDaily.com it will comply with the adjudication and not repeat the adverts for now, but is requesting an independent review of the decision "as we believe that there are significant flaws".
The story recalls a similar UK consumer complaint against Carling British Cider (Molson Coors) upon the basis that – despite wrapping itself in the flag – the cider doesn’t use British apples
A press advert and television advert for the beer were both subject to consumer complaints centered on claims including “if you find a better-tasting French beer, we’ll eat our berets”.
Eric Cantona: 'Here in Alsace, things are a little bit different'
The TV advert (see below) featured Cantona saying: “Here in Alsace, things are a little bit different. The hop farmers are treated like the footballers of Britain. They are idolised and adored. And why not? They are living legends.
“They are the men that grow the noble hops that make Kronenbourg taste supreme.”
Despite small print in both cases stating ‘brewed in the UK’, viewers complained that the adverts implied the beer was brewed in France and that the hops used to produce 1664 were grown there also.
Heineken (which reported its FY 2013 results this morning) countered that Kronenbourg 1664 was brewed in the UK but according to a French recipe and processes supervised by Brasseries Kronenbourg, which the Dutch firm bought in 2008.
Given that one of the hops used to brew the beer, Strisselspalt, is only grown commercially in the Alsace, Heineken said they believed that 1664 could reasonably be described as a ‘French beer’ because of its heritage and (in the ASA’s words) “the origin of its recipe and use of the hop, as well as its ownership of the yeast type used”.
But upholding the first complaint (as to brewing in France), the ASA said that Kronenbourg 1664 was described as a ‘French beer’ although it was brewed in the UK.
Heineken rapped for misleading consumers
“Although we acknowledged Heineken’s arguments as to the beer’s heritage and the French origins of the recipe, we considered that the degree of emphasis in the ad on the connection with France would lead consumers to believe that the entire brewing and manufacturing process took place in that country," the ASA said this morning.
The small print stating that the beer was brewed in the UK was contradicted not clarified by the main message of the advert.
Turning to the issue of hops used to create the beer, the ASA noted that it was only one of several used and said the emphasis in the ad on the contribution of the French hops was overstated.
“[This] implied that the all, or a significant majority of the hops used in the brewing process were sourced from France…[but the Strisselspalt hop]…did not constitute a significant majority of total hops used in the recipe for the beer.
Kronenbourg 1664: 'French by any reasonable measure'
Heineken's spokesman told this publication that the drink was "French by any reasonable measure, including brand ownership, history, heritage and the authentic recipe used".
The brewer had never disguised the fact that 1664 is brewed in the UK, he added, a fact "clearly communicated" on cans, bottles and in adverts.
"The Strisselspalt hop is a key ingredient, but it is very common in brewing to use a variety of hops to create the final unique taste of a beer," he said.
Heineken was unable to divulge the other hops for commercial reasons, he said, "but I can say it includes other Noble and Northern Europe hops".
"Again, we have never claimed or implied that Strisselspalt is the only hop used, but we feel strongly that we should be able to celebrate the important role that this particular ingredient plays," the spokesman added.
Kronenbourg 1664 is owned by Carlsberg after it bought the French assets of Scottish & Newcastle in April 2008.
But Heineken UK has a 50-year license from 2008 to brew, market and sell beer in the UK.