In a new series, we are running quick question and answer sessions covering regular questions that are asked of the Advisory Service. We often get asked how the Code applies to retail placement and retail price in both the Advisory Service and during the complaints process. In this first blog we look at some of the most common questions we receive to help explain when and how the Code applies in these situations.

Q: Consumers know my product is alcoholic as it is only retailed in the alcohol aisle of well-known off-trade establishments, does this satisfy the requirement under Code rule 3.1?

While retailers do typically retail alcoholic drinks in a designated alcohol aisle, it’s important as a producer to remember that alcohol purchased in the off-trade is likely to end up in the home environment. In addition to this, no producer has total control of a supply chain and a product could still end up in an unintended purchasing environment. It’s therefore important that a product should communicate its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity on packaging.

The Code does not require that a product communicates its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity on-shelf when seen from a distance. Portman Group guidance acknowledges that a shopper will pick up a product from its retail position and will assess it in its entirety.  Producers should therefore be mindful of ensuring there are positive alcohol cues on the packaging, these can include the name of the alcohol, the alcoholic strength by volume (ABV), unit content and more.

Q: Under-18 year olds cannot purchase alcohol, and even if they did, they would not like its taste. If I can prove no one under-18 buys the product will this demonstrate that it does not have an appeal to them?

One of the key principles of the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks Code of Practice is that products should not have a particular appeal to under-18s.  The wording of the rule heavily focuses on the ‘particular appeal’ of a product and the appeal conveyed by the overall impression of the product will be the same, regardless of where, or how, the product is sold.  The consideration of appeal is fundamentally one that goes beyond product availability and the rule is applied both in the spirit and letter.

No one under the age of 18 years old can purchase alcohol in the UK, with very specific exemptions in the on-trade, so it is clear that purchasing data does not provide an accurate reflection of a product’s appeal to this age group.

Producers are encouraged to discuss any concepts with the Advisory Service prior to launch and to carefully follow guidance to ensure that a product does not have a particular appeal to under-18s.

Q: I have a premium product that has a high price point, therefore no one would down the product in one or consume it irresponsibly, is this taken into consideration?

While the positioning of a brand and the price may be taken into consideration by the Independent Complaints Panel, compliance with the Code is considered on a case-by-case basis. This means that whatever the price point, it will always be the overall impression of the product packaging that will ultimately determine compliance with the Code.

While it’s not possible for us to provide an exhaustive list of potential infringements, if you are at all unsure, why not reach out to the Advisory Service for a free confidential non-binding view here, or check out our guidance here.