Brasserie De La Senne faces complaint over ‘violent’ label design
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Brasserie De La Senne faces complaint over ‘violent’ label design

Credit: Wikipedia

Brussels brewery Brasserie De La Senne is facing difficulties over perceptions of violence on the label design of its popular Taras Boulba beer in the UK.

Selected as part of a random audit of 500 products, Taras Boulba’s label – depicting a character holding a beer barrel while towering over another frightened character – was found by an independent panel to be a breach of the new Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks in the UK.

This section in question states that “a drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour,” something which was breached by the violent act on the label, directed at a fearful character.

The illustration

The illustration in question, however, is based on a story of the same name, something which the investigating panel accepted, but ultimately found too obscure.

Taras Boulba (or Bulba) is a novella from 1842 by Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol that tells the story of a heroic soldier and his turbulent relationship with two sons – one which ultimately leads to love and death. The story was borrowed by de la Senne as a way to poke fun at the linguistic divide within Belgium, in its own way.

“The Panel sympathised with Brasserie De La Senne who had entered an unfamiliar market and it was noted that producers could use stories and satire, as well as well-designed labels, for packaging and alcoholic products without breaching the Code,” said Jenny Watson, Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel.

“However, the Panel believed that a label depicting a man throwing a beer barrel at a cowering victim on the floor conveyed aggression and further connected the violence to alcohol. This ruling once again highlights how important it is for producers, both small and large, to make use of the free advisory service before launching their product in the UK,” added Watson.

In cases of a Code breach concerning a drink’s packaging or point-of-sale material, the normal timetable for implementing the necessary changes – not normally exceeding three months – will be supplied in writing to the company concerned. This then allows for changes to be made, and a conclusion to be reached.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times