Heineken is one of the biggest names in brewing, with the iconic green bottle known the world over. With a lager range called "Desperados," Heineken has gotten itself into some trouble by saying the beer is tequila flavored.
The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT), an organization that "promotes the culture and quality of this beverage that has gained an important place among the national identity symbols," is preparing to sue Heineken for its use of the word "tequila" on the labels.
"We cannot permit someone unscrupulously to affect tequila's prestige," said Ramón González, director general for the CRT, told the Financial Times. "Either they take the word tequila off it, or they put some tequila in."
González further warned that if Heineken doesn't remove the word from the label, "we'll have no choice but to fight this [in court.]"
Heineken, on the other hand, defended its use of the word, claiming that the beer is, in fact, flavored with tequila.
"[Desperados] is a beer flavored with tequila," Michael Fuchs, a spokesman for Heineken, told the Financial Times. "The flavoring we use contains tequila, which we buy in Mexico from one of the members of the CRT. We make sure the product fully complies with all regulations and labeling requirements."
Heineken said that, by using tequila flavors in a beer, it is bending the rules of traditional brewery.
What some people might not realize is that, similar to champagne or cognac, tequila relies on its geographic origin. Under Mexican regulation, 25 to 51 percent of a beverage's alcohol content must come from tequila to be able to say it contains tequila. The label also has to feature an identification number that identifies the producers and tequila batch number.
The CRT asserted that while the label says that Desperados contains "75 percent tequila" in flavorings, CRT and the Madrid Public Health Laboratory found that it does not contain tequila.
And, because Heineken doesn't disclose the exact figures of how much tequila is in its flavoring and the drink, that's a hard fact to dispute.
What's most interesting here is that Desperados has been available for a while now, but the CRT held back from pursuing legal action. In March, the CRT reached out to Heineken to ask them to stop printing the label, but Heineken asked for more time to remedy the situation, all the while continuing with the label as usual.
"We would like to emphasize that Desperados and the CRT cover a lot of common ground," Fuchs said. "We're all huge tequila lovers and through the Desperados brand, we promote the greatness of tequila in 85 markets across the world."
The CRT isn't asking for money, just a truthful label.
"We just want a fresh start," González said.
For promotional products distributors, this is a good lesson in making sure your clients are putting all of the necessary information on label designs. Otherwise, they may be coming back for more.