Industry watchdog the Portman Group has issued a Retailer Alert Bulletin (RAB) to request retailers stop placing orders for Bearded Brewery’s Unshaven Maiden cider.

The move comes after the product was found to have an “indirect association with sexual activity and causing widespread offence”.

The Portman Group said a RAB is only issued following an upheld complaint by its panel and when the producer chooses not to comply with that decision. A RAB requests that retailers cease placing orders for the product three months after the publication date and informs wider groups about the panel decision. 

 The panel considered the imagery on the label which showed a prominent, partially nude, bearded mermaid figurehead. The panel noted that ‘maiden’ could “relate to a virgin or an unmarried young woman and when considered alongside the tagline ‘search for the cherry’d treasure’, reinforced the innuendo linking to virginity”.

The panel also noted there was undue focus on the mermaid’s body which “objectified the character and, to a certain extent, women more broadly” and they expressed concern surrounding the tagline which, combined with the image of the mermaid, they concluded resulted in sexual objectification.

 Chair of the independent complaints panel, Nicola Williams, said: “It was clear that this product was damaging – promoting sexual stereotypes, in this way is out of place with modern-day societal values. Producers all have a duty to consider how their products will be perceived, not only by their local community but the wider UK market in which the products are sold.”

In response to the complaint, the Bearded Brewery stated that the logo on the drink depicted a pirate ship and featured a female siren, or mermaid figurehead, with a beard which was positioned at the front of the ship. The company explained that ‘Unshaven Maiden’ was a reference to the name of the ship.

The company also clarified that the tagline “search for the cherry’d treasure” was in reference to both the cherry flavour of the cider and was a play on the words for “search for buried treasure”.