The Advertising Standards Authority upheld two complaints claiming the press and TV ads were misleading because they suggested it was brewed in France using French hops.
The press ad stated “If you find a better tasting French beer, we’ll eat our berets”, while the TV version, featuring Cantona, said: “Here in Alsace, things are a bit different. The hop farms are treated like the footballers of Britain. They are idolised and adored.”
The ASA dismissed Heineken’s defence of its advertising which claimed the brand’s “Frenchness” was an integral part of its marketing and had been used to promote the beer long before Heineken acquired it in 2008.
Rivals said the ruling added further fuel to the industry debate over the definition of a world beer and called on brewers to be more honest. Nigel McNally, managing director of Brookfield Drinks, said: “I have been saying for some time that British drinkers are being misled.
“The big brands claiming provenance offer no traceability of ingredients because cost is the lowest common denominator – sourcing where they can to get the lowest price. Price often drives speed of production where the product can be made in some cases from raw ingredients to finished product in can or bottle in around 10 days or less. It’s time the big brands come clean and be up front on all the topics, not just provenance and traceability but on ABVs and product sizes too.”
Denis Cox, public relations controller at Budvar, added: “The decision to forbid the appearance of these ads in their present form screams out for our industry to get a grip on this whole world beer issue and to seriously define what it means.
“It calls out for a straight up and down definition of a world beer. This means that it is not brewed in the UK, but at source, wherever that is, and never under licence.
“Also, that the beer has provenance or enjoys PGI status. That will put an end to all the arguments about what constitutes a world beer.
“Getting proper rules in place would be doing a great service to our drinkers.”