The Bearded Brewery’s ‘Suicyder’ – a 7.8% ABV cider – plays on the word ‘suicide’ in its name and uses images such as a rope with a noose, as well as the strapline ‘juice from the noose’.
The Cornish brewery – whose other products include Agent Orange and Raspberry Ripper – says the name was chosen to indicate the strength of the alcohol content, while the imagery tied in with its biker imagery and non-traditional branding. It added that the word ‘suicide’ is used in 244 beers, ciders and breweries worldwide.
But the Portman Group – the UK alcohol industry’s self-regulating body which is funded by eight beverage alcohol giants – has issued a Retailer Alert Bulletin to request retailers do not restock the cider.
A 'wholly inappropriate' link
A complainant, a member of the public, expressed concerns that ‘Suicyders’ product name and images created a ‘clear association between the cider and the act of committing suicide’.
An Independent Complaints Panel agreed that the name ‘Suicyder’, when used in combination with imagery that depicted a hanging method of suicide, created a direct link between suicide, alcohol and dangerous behaviour. For this reason, it upheld the complaint under Code paragraph 3.2 (b): “A drink, its packaging or promotion should not suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour.”
A Portman Group spokesperson commented: “The Panel felt it was wholly inappropriate to link a product’s name and imagery to the tragic act of suicide. I hope this reminds producers of their responsibilities when designing packaging and naming products. If in doubt producers are encouraged to make use of our free advisory service to avoid problems before they arise.”
A wider issue?
The Bearded Brewery defended its product: saying the name was chosen to indicate the strength of the cider, while its imagery and designs fit the branding style used by the brewery.
It added that as a small, independent brewery it had no intention of selling ‘Suicyder’ to larger shops and suppliers.
It also said the branding of ‘juice from the noose’ and the imagery of the noose in the logo next to the apple skull reflected a dual meaning: rooted in the previous careers of the founders (In their work with the Forestry Commission, they would use a noose to dismantle unsafe trees; otherwise known as Widow Makers).
But the Panel said that this link would not be clear to drinkers.
The Bearded Brewery also argued that the word ‘suicide’ is used in 244 beers, ciders and breweries worldwide.
While the Panel noted this point, it said its job was to consider the product in question alone.
In this instance, the Panel concluded that the product name ‘Suicyder’, when used in combination with imagery that depicted a hanging method of suicide, created a direct link between suicide, alcohol and dangerous behaviour and accordingly upheld the product under Code paragraph 3.2(b).
The company decided not to work with the Portman Group advisory service to amend their product in line with the Panel’s ruling. Therefore, a Retailer Alert Bulletin – which asks retailers not to restock the product - will be issued.
BeverageDaily has contacted The Bearded Brewery for comment.
The Bearded Brewery: 'We are a small, independent brewery with strong community ties'
A statement from brewery in response to the Portman Group's ruling says: "The Bearded Brewery Stands by its branding and choice of name of the product Suicyder.
"In the current climate we realise that it is important to discuss and share and create awareness for such a sensitive topic.
"Depression and mental illness are subjects that are commonly discussed over a drink and we feel our product encourages that dialogue which then often leads to a good resolution.
"We understand that just like our cider, our brand may not be to everyone’s taste, but we know as business owners that our clientele base and regular customers commend us for being so upfront about these issues.
"We would also like to take this opportunity to thank those who did complain as we encourage the freedom of expression and as a result, this has now brought even more attention to those specific issues.
"We are small independent brewer with strong community ties who provide a safe, non-judgemental space at the Brewery to discuss and talk about any problems that you may have and we are proud of that."