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Supporting the work of Only A Pavement Away

We are delighted to announce our charity partner Only A Pavement Away.

Only A Pavement Away connects forward thinking hospitality employers and charities working with people facing homelessness, prison leavers and veterans to help them find and forge new careers in hospitality. The charity currently works alongside 87 hospitality employers and 85 charity partners, and hospitality businesses to offer employment to those facing homelessness, prison leavers and veterans. In addition, the charity also has over 200 work-ready candidates listed on its Candidate Profile Page (CPP) jobs board which is designed to support individuals who are looking to start new careers within hospitality. The charity is also seeking funding from industry backers to enable it to reach its goal of placing 700 members into employment over the next 3 years.

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group said: “The Portman Group promotes responsibility across the alcohol sector. We are impressed with the work of Only a Pavement Away who are enabling the hospitality sector to secure teams, giving second chances to former service personnel, prisoners and the homeless. The commitment that the firms are making to these new employees is testament to the support they have to helping people in their communities. This is something we have seen time and time again including during the COVID-19 pandemic and in everyday kindnesses to their teams, customers and localities. We are delighted to support Only A Pavement Away as our charity.”

As part of the Portman Group’s support, Nicola Bates, Director of External Affairs has also agreed to join as an Advisor to support the charity as it continues to grow and develop its employment programme.

Nicola commented, “Only a Pavement Away has had a considerable impact for individuals in just a short time of operation. I am delighted to be able to join the next phase of their journey and work with them to help connect businesses with people who need a hand up’.

Greg Mangham, Founder & CEO said, “I am really pleased that Nicola has agreed to join Only A Pavement Away as an Advisor. Nicola’s vast experience in business and dedication on helping those who face homelessness will be a great support to the work we do. Nicola will also bring the added advantage of the great work and support the Portman Group gives to the alcohol sector. Another crucial addition to the Only A Pavement Team and our development over the next 12 months.”

Mangham added, “By 2026, it is estimated that there will be another 1.3 million vacancies in the hospitality industry. At the same time the number of rough sleepers is on the increase. By joining forces with forward thinking companies like the Portman Group we can help someone get their life back on track and help fill the industry with hard-working, committed staff.”

For companies looking for more information on sponsorships and ways to support Only A Pavement Away, please email: fundraising@onlyapavementaway.co.uk.  To find out more about the vital work undertaken by Only A Pavement Away, visit www.onlyapavementaway.co.uk or keep an eye on the social media pages, Facebook: @onlyapavementaway, Twitter: @apavementaway, Instagram: @only_a_pavement_away and LinkedIn: Only A Pavement Away.

 

 

What happens if I complain?

The Portman Group is the self-regulator for the marketing and promotion of alcoholic drinks in the UK. We administer the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging, and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks and the Code of Practice on Alcohol Sponsorship. Formal complaints are adjudicated on by the Independent Complaints Panel (Panel) and formal rulings are published on the Portman Group website.

This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Code. In that time, we have investigated 257 cases through our formal and informal resolution processes and seen over 160 products removed or amended. In this blog, we’ll answer some of the most frequent questions we receive about complaints.

Who can complain?

Anyone can make a complaint about the naming, packaging, promotion or sponsorship of an alcoholic product and we will investigate all matters brought to our attention.

Complaints from members of the public are kept anonymous. Complaints from competitors, organisations or individuals with a commercial or specialist interest in the alcohol industry will be named.  We name these organisations to ensure a fair and transparent process; a producer subject to complaint has a right to know if the complainant falls into one of these categories.

What if a complaint is vexatious?

To ensure that complaints are treated equally and fairly, all complaints are subject to the same process formalised in the Code.

The Portman Group provides the Secretariat function to the Independent Complaints Panel and will ask complainants certain questions to establish whether the complaint can be taken forward.  However, it is not for the Portman Group to determine the validity of the complaint itself.  It is our role to ensure that there is a fair and robust system for complaints to be considered by an independent Panel.

How many complaints are needed to trigger an investigation?

Only one. Alcohol marketing is regulated in the UK by Ofcom, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Portman Group. All three regulators operate on a one complaint basis for consideration.

Why do you act on one complaint?

Alcohol is an age-restricted product, and it is important that companies market alcoholic products in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not appeal particularly to those who are vulnerable – these are the core principles of the Code. Every consumer, regardless of the product or promotion, has a right to have concerns heard through a fair and transparent process that can address any potential harm being caused. We are all consumers in our day to day lives and when encountering an issue, most of us would expect a route for our concerns to be addressed.

It is important to note that numbers in and of themselves do not necessarily translate to a breach. This means that marketing in receipt of one complaint may result in an upheld ruling or conversely a product with 100 complaints will be considered fairly against the Code and maybe not upheld. The decision will be made purely on the merits of the case. This also means that marketing which attracts numerous complaints may not be found in breach of the Code.

It is not for the Portman Group to create an arbitrary threshold of complaint numbers in order for concerns to be heard. We understand that a concern for one person, may not be a concern for another, but it is for the Panel to determine whether a breach of the Code has occurred and this consideration will be on a case-by-case basis.

Is it fair?

Is it fair that one complaint can commence the process as it could cost a producer a lot of time and money?

We’re incredibly conscious of the time and cost associated with going to the Panel, especially where there is an upheld decision. This is why we offer a free Advisory Service to the entire industry so that producers can ideally discuss products ahead of launch so they understand how they may appear under the Code. We provide around 500 pieces of advice a year and help producers avoid costly mistakes with their marketing before going to production and sales.

Ultimately, it is our responsibility to regulate the industry. We have a duty to ensure that our Codes of Practice are adhered to in order to protect vulnerable consumers and to maintain the sector’s justified reputation for taking a responsible approach.

What happens next?

In the event of a complaint being referred to the Panel, the producer will always have a chance to respond to the complaint. This information is compiled into a factual, neutral dossier which will be given to the Panel for its consideration. The Panel are a lay Panel, and it is their role to judge complaints under the Code while bringing their own experiences as members of civic society.  You can find out more about how the Panel works here, but in a nutshell, having a complaint made about alcohol marketing does not automatically result in an upheld decision. The Panel will judge each complaint on a case-by-case basis, but the intent of the complainant is not taken into consideration.  For instance, a complaint about a gin bottle which particularly appeals to under-18s will be upheld regardless of the motive of the complainant; it is the product, not the complainant that the Panel will assess under the Code.

As a transparent regulator, all upheld and not upheld decisions are published in full on our website.

want to know more?

If you find that you have a question that is not answered here, please feel free to contact us at advice@portmangroup.org.uk

 

UK Government changes how it tracks alcohol health trends as drinking rates fall

The Portman Group welcomes the UK Government’s announcement that it has implemented an update to its use of alcohol-attributable fractions (AAFs). If you haven’t heard of them before, an AAF denotes the proportion of disease cases which are estimated to have been caused by alcohol. The change in the calculation impacts how alcohol-related mortality and hospital admissions in England are calculated. This change has been made as the result of persistent falls in the levels of drinking across the population as the latest evidence suggest that the majority of AAFs are smaller than previously thought. Down by ¼

This led PHE to conclude that “currently published rates are too high and if LAPE [Local Alcohol Profiles for England] were to continue producing statistics using the older AAFs then this inaccuracy would continue and indeed worsen over time.”

PHE said updating its methodology to account for declining alcohol consumption across the population, as well as harmful drinking patterns such as binge drinking, would result in current estimates of alcohol-related deaths and admissions being lowered by around a quarter.

The Portman Group feels that it is important that PHE makes clear that it is changing its methodology to account for positive behaviour change amongst the general population, whilst also recognising the harm that alcohol misuse can cause to individuals remains unchanged.

Implementing the new methodology in the latest Local Alcohol Profiles for England has meant that:

  • Estimated alcohol-related deaths across England for 2018 have been lowered by around 5,700. This equates to around 23% of deaths previously estimated and lowered the death rate per 100,000 for 2018 from 46.5 to 35.8.
  • Estimated hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions (narrow) for 2018 have been lowered by around 83,000. This equates to around 23% of admissions previously estimated and lowered the rate per 100,000 for 2018 from 664 to 512.
  • Estimated hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions (broad) for 2018 have been lowered by around 320,000. This equates to around 25% of admissions previously estimated and lowered the rate per 100,000 for 2018 from 2,367 to 1,766.
  • However, whilst the rates have been lowered, it is important to note that the direction of the trend in rates since 2016 for mortality and admissions remains unchanged, showing the relative stasis in mortality and increase in admissions evident before the revision, which continue in the latest statistics released for 2019.

As an evidence-based body, we support the change which is based on new data. It will present a more accurate picture and will take into account over a decade of progress of tackling many areas of alcohol-related harm, though recognise the consecutive increase in alcohol-related admissions in recent years shows there is much more to do.

We also welcome that the update to methodology will be backdated to 2016, to allow for a more accurate long-term view of trends.

We believe this update is especially important as it will allow policymakers to make better informed decisions and help to more effectively target policies towards those drinking at the heaviest and most harmful rates.

Taking this forward

The Government will apply this updated methodology to wider estimates of alcohol-related harm based on these calculations (i.e., previous PHE estimates on the economic cost of alcohol misuse).

Public Health England collaborates with colleagues across the UK and we hope will encourage public health authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to also update their own estimates of alcohol-related harm, taking account of declining trends in harm across the whole of the UK.

Overall, this consultation has been welcome chance for the Government to take ownership of over a decade of progress in tackling alcohol misuse, as the UK increasingly becomes a nation of moderate drinkers.

Read more

Office for Health Improvement and Disparities blog explains the new estimates on deaths and hospital admissions caused by alcohol – here.

Previous blog write up on our consultation response April 2021 – here.

Consultation response in full April 2021 – here.

The Portman Group has published its response to the latest draft World Health Organisation (WHO) action plan to implement the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. We are concerned that the action plan is moving away from the stated aims of the strategy. We call on the WHO to commit to a renewed focus on harmful drinking and to recognise the industry as a constructive partner in tackling harm.

As the UK alcohol industry voluntary regulator and social responsibility body we have been committed to promoting responsible drinking for over 30 years. We have worked in conjunction with the sector and others to reduce harms and have seen significant declines over most metrics in the decades we have operated.

Perception of the industry

We are disappointed that the latest draft continues to frame the industry negatively and therefore does not utilise the ideas, enthusiasm and energy that the sector has in dealing with harm. It fails to recognise the ongoing work of the industry to promote moderation as well as tackling alcohol harm in both the UK and around the world, and its engagement as a constructive partner.

We believe the UK market stands as an international example of industry best practice and the substantial progress that has been made to tackle the harmful use of alcohol in the country. This has been achieved, in part, through the ongoing success of voluntary cross-industry initiatives, as well as public-private partnerships implementing public health initiatives which should not be downplayed in the current action plan.

There has been significant progress made in tackling alcohol-related harm. The moderate majority of consumers drink responsibly and the work to get here should be recognised and used as a foundation for further work.

A commitment to alcohol responsibility is evident in initiatives across the whole of the sector. This includes the high retailing standards to prevent underage sales by the UK Retail of Alcohol Standards Group, who operate the Challenge 25 scheme where 99% of retailers seek evidence that people looking under the age of 25 are of legal age to purchase alcohol.

The sector also voluntarily funds a number of partnership schemes at a local level such as Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP). Over the past 14 years, CAP have worked across 216 projects with local authorities, police, schools and local retailers to prevent underage drinking and alcohol harm to young people through a three-pillar model to educate, prevent underage sales and engage young people in positive activity to enhance their confidence, health and wellbeing[i].

Let’s focus on reducing harmful alcohol use

There is more work to be done and the action plan could be used to galvanise action. It should focus on reducing harmful alcohol use. Unfortunately it is unhelpfully diluting its focus to emphasise a reduction in overall use and the blunt measure of alcohol consumption per capita. This is especially pertinent given the polarisation in alcohol consumption and harm witnessed under COVID-19, where alcohol related deaths in England and Wales rose by 20% from 6,209 in 2019 to 7,423 in 2020[ii]. Surely this emphasises that we need to focus resources at targeted support and treatment for those drinking to highest harm.

However, the plan focuses on reducing overall alcohol consumption seeking an unrealistic 20% target to be achieved in less than a decade. It needlessly focuses capacity and resources on those individuals already drinking at moderate low levels which is close to 4 in 5 people in the UK[iii]. This is a chance to help the world come up with recommendations to reduce those drinking at the highest harm levels which, if the plan remains unchanged, will be missed and by shifting its focus away from harmful drinking, it will likely undermine the commitment of the strategy to a harm reduction approach.

Drinking and pregnancy

In the spirit of focusing on harm, we also welcome and are supportive of the inclusion of taking appropriate action to ‘prevent drinking in pregnancy and prevent foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)’ in the action plan, as an important targeted step in order to prevent alcohol harm.

We also welcome the removal of the previous wording regarding the ‘prevention of drinking among women of childbearing age’. This sentence was ill considered and was language that was counterproductive to the vital intention to prevent FASD.

This point echoes the need for the strategy to return to a focus on alcohol misuse and harm, rather than a broad attempt to reduce all consumption regardless that the majority of drinkers drink within Government recommended guidelines. When encouraging moderation and responsibility, it is essential that the steps seem reasonable, proportionate and appropriate, otherwise it may result in the counterproductive situation where people potentially ignore public health advice.

Valuing the regulators

We believe the WHO should also take note of the success of the self-regulatory and co-regulatory system which exists in the UK, with the Portman Group working alongside the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Ofcom to ensure that alcohol marketing is covered in the round across all platforms. Portman Group and ASA data shows widespread industry compliance and support for this system, ensuring that alcohol is only marketed to adults in a responsible manner.

The Portman Group Code of Practices on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks and Alcohol Sponsorship are a prime example of how self-regulatory action, with wide industry buy-in across the supply chain from producers to retailers, can have a demonstrable impact in protecting the most vulnerable in society and is a legitimate model to be included in the Action Plan. The Code of Practice, now in its 25th year, ensures that alcohol is marketed in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not have particular appeal to vulnerable consumers. Respect for the complaints process has led to more than 160 irresponsible and inappropriate products either being re-branded or removed from the market, in turn driving industry changes and protecting consumers.

The success of self-regulatory and voluntary measures, combined with a variety of initiatives from the UK Government to tackle alcohol-related harm, also underscores that the action plan should recognise the broad suite of policy options and interventions included in the Global Strategy for reducing harmful alcohol use.

The success of industry initiatives also demonstrate that the sector has a serious commitment to tackling harm in the UK and across the world. The industry is responsible and should continue to be seen as an active and willing partner as part of a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to tackling harmful alcohol use.

What next?

The Global Strategy is an opportunity to make the most of all the ideas, initiatives and investment from NGOs, governments, industry and bodies such as the Portman Group to tackle alcohol harm. This should be the focus of the plan and an opportunity to be captured. We hope that we can play our part and for the successes and learnings which come from the sector to be utilised.

The baton is now handed to the UK Government. We support much of their submission which recognises the need to focus on harm. We hope that the UK’s voice will be heard within WHO and that the action plan can be drawn back to delivering the agreed strategy. We stand ready to work with Government and the WHO.

[i] Community Alcohol Partnerships 2020 Annual Report, accessed July 2021

[ii] ONS: Quarterly alcohol-specific deaths in England and Wales, May 2021

[iii] NHS England, December 2020 / Scottish Health Survey, September 2020/ National Survey for Wales, September 2020 / Health Survey Northern Ireland, December 2020

We are looking for three Independent Complaints Panel Members, do consider applying to join the Panel

The Portman Group

The Portman Group is the social responsibility body and self-regulator for alcohol packaging and promotion in the UK.  As the alcohol industry watchdog, we regulate various forms of alcohol marketing through our Codes of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks and Alcohol Sponsorship.

Independent Complaints Panel Member

Complaints under these Codes of Practice are adjudicated on by an Independent Complaints Panel.  The membership of this Panel is diverse and independent from the Portman Group, representing a wide range of backgrounds and experience.

We are seeking three new Panel members to replace three members whose terms of appointment will be coming to end.

In order to keep a balance of expertise and experience, we are particularly interested in applicants with:

  • a professional background working with young people;
  • an insight into youth trends and behaviours (e.g. working in education);
  • experience in youth or social work;
  • adjudicatory experience;
  • a creative or marketing background, particularly those who have experience in social media marketing that targets young people.

Please note that anyone who is or has been directly employed by an alcoholic drinks producer is ineligible to apply for these vacancies.  If you currently work for a marketing agency that works with alcohol brands, even if you are not working on these accounts, you will be unable to apply.

Panel members are required to have sound judgement; good communication and listening skills; a reasonable awareness of alcohol issues; a balanced view of alcohol’s role in society; and to be genuinely independent and objective in their thought and approach.  To ensure that the Panel is diverse we welcome applications from anyone who believes they would enjoy the role, there is no required level of experience, and we encourage applications from anyone over the age of 18.

The Independent Complaints Panel meets a minimum of eight times per year.  The dates are agreed before the beginning of the calendar year.  The meetings usually take place at the Portman Group’s offices in central London or a venue close by subject to any Covid restrictions that may apply.  Meetings usually fall on a Thursday and run from 12:30 – 14:30. A sandwich lunch is provided. Prior permission for absenteeism from Panel meetings must be gained from the Chair.

As a member of the Independent Complaints Panel, you agree to be a Director of the limited company; and, your directorship will be notified to Companies House.

You also agree to sign a non-disclosure agreement meaning that any information the Portman Group shares with you is confidential and you agree not to disclose or share this information with anyone else without first gaining permission from either the Portman Group or the Panel Chair.

Further information can be found by using the link for ‘Job Specification’ below. Candidates should enclose a full CV along with a covering letter explaining clearly how they meet the requirements of this role. If you would like to discuss the role informally please contact Alison Munro Regulatory Affairs Manager on 07926130342 or email amunro@portmangroup.org.uk. Please note that applications without a covering letter will not be considered.

Closing date: 11 October

Interviews: TBC November

Unfortunately, due to the high number of applications we receive we will not be able to respond to each application individually.  If you have not received a response by 29 October you have not been successful on this occasion.

The Portman Group is committed to equal opportunities; applications are welcome from all suitably qualified candidates who meet the stated criteria and are over the age of 18.

Candidate Information Pack

The Time is Now for Renewed Leadership on Preventing Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancies

9/9 is international FASD Awareness Day – signifying the importance of going alcohol-free during the 9 months of pregnancy. But this year is not a typical year.

Sandra Butcher and Joanna Buckard

__________

Are you ready for the tectonic shifts that are happening in England in the coming days and months as National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the DHSC take steps to wrench their policies about FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) into line with international scientific consensus? Research shows FASD may be at least twice as prevalent as autism (Department of Health & Social Care: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: health needs assessment), September 2021).  Industry leaders should now be rolling up their sleeves to plan how to use this moment to demonstrate their social responsibility.

Following on Scotland’s 2019 guideline for diagnosing children and young people prenatally exposed to alcohol, NICE will soon be releasing its first-ever Quality Standard on FASD. The current publicly available draft identifies areas for improving quality of care for the advice given to pregnant women, how alcohol-exposed pregnancies are noted, the assessment and diagnosis of FASD and care management plans for those with FASD. All Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS Trusts must ‘have regard’ for NICE Quality Standards, which lay out measurable indicators for how they are meeting these targets. In addition, the Department of Health and Social Care is releasing its first FASD Health Needs Assessment for England on 09/09. Public Health England also recently published a High Impact Area Document on reducing harm from alcohol use in pregnancy.

These steps signify a sea change in official public health policy across the UK about alcohol in pregnancy and FASD. Most significantly, these official bodies are recognising the full FASD spectrum, walking away from their prior focus on “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome” – the old-school emphasis on certain facial features that affect less than 10% of those with FASD. The diagnosis now will be “FASD” with or without sentinel facial features. They are operationalizing the 2016 CMO guidance. A new FASD: Preferred UK Language Guide shows changes to our language must follow.

Whilst the vast majority of the UK market adheres to the Portman Group’s best practice guidelines, which includes carrying a pregnancy warning message or symbol and unit information, with 97% of products in the UK carrying the information (Alcohol Health Alliance, Drinking in the dark, August 2020), in our view the reality shows these don’t go far enough. The images on wine in particular are often too small are sometimes confusing and could be improved.

FASD is preventable and yet new UK-based research, a gold standard ‘active-case ascertainment’ study, shows that between 1.8% – 3.6% have FASD. Though this study was small-scale and had limitations due to COVID, it is in line with a much larger study done in the USA. In Scotland, meconium sampling indicated that 42% of pregnancies were alcohol-exposed. The UK ranks 4th in the world for alcohol use in pregnancy. This is no time for complacency.

Why is alcohol use in pregnancy so often left out of discussions on alcohol harm and/or ignored when it finally is addressed? Let’s change that. Whilst some alcohol producers have engaged with this agenda, we believe this will be a defining moment for the whole industry.   How industry responds to the policy shift will be a defining moment.

Industry can do much good in this space, alone or in partnership with government and charities and we have seen some good examples in other countries.   In Australia, Drinkwise, a partnership between industry and public health entities, has a public education campaign which also makes material available for schools. Sandy’s Law in Ontario has pregnancy warnings at point of sale. In British Columbia liquor stores actively promote FASD awareness. Pregnancy kits in pub toilets have been trialed. In this country we believe Drinkaware could take the lead with ads on train platforms, on busses, in movie theatres and on tv. There are some good examples of cooperation with industry here in the UK for example National FASD educates midwives and other practitioners with support from Diageo but the funding available to the Third Sector is a drop in the bucket compared to the need.  So, there is plenty of scope for industry to further engage and help to combat FASD

The media could also do much more to educate the public on the risks and industry can play an important role in encouraging this too.  Tragically not everyone knows that alcohol-exposed pregnancies risk miscarriage, premature birth, still birth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) – preventable lifelong damage to the brain and body.

National FASD stands ready to work with interested leaders from industry to see how collectively we can meet this historic moment. We can go far to reducing alcohol use in pregnancy if we set our sights higher.

__________

Sandra Butcher is Chief Executive of The National Organisation for FASD and mum to a 17-year old with FASD

Joanna Buckard is the Specialist Projects Co-ordinator with the The National Organisation for FASD

__________

To note that the views of this blog represent those of the authors only and do not represent the policy of the Portman Group.

 

 

As part of the celebrations of the 25th year of the Portman Group Code of Practice on Thursday 22 July we held the second of our series of seminars exploring the responsible regulation of alcohol. We looked at the trends of 2021and beyond, spotlighting current and future industry trends.

We were delighted to host two visionary speakers. Dan Hooper is a Co-Founder of YesMore the specialist drinks marketing agency, whose clients include Bacardi, Aperol, Pernod Ricard, Grey Goose and many others. His perspective is informed by trends he sees coming both from their base in Shoreditch, London, as well as Los Angeles and the products of their US based clients.

The Deputy Editor of Just Drinks Andy Morton spent nearly a decade tracking the stories and trends in the drinks industry writing for one of the highest circulation magazines in the sector. At Just Drinks he has cemented himself as one of the most insightful and thoughtful journalists writing about alcohol in the UK.

They led an in-depth discussion considering what they think has been significant so far in the year and what can be anticipated in the upcoming months. In response, our Advice and Training Manager Rebecca Oladipo looked at the likely ramifications of such trends in relation to the Code and advised producers on how to avoid these potential pitfalls.

The topics were wide ranging from CBD-infused products, hard seltzers, brand voice, use of influencers, the positioning of alcohol and the influence of soft drinks marketing. While we can’t squeeze every topic into this blog, we wanted to draw out our top three discussions.

Health claims

Time and again when discussing how brands are positioning CBD products, hard seltzers and soft drink crossovers, we have seen that health claims have started to creep into marketing and this trend appears to have grown as a result of the pandemic. There have been a number of recent cases flagged by the Advertising Standards Authority on the way that hard seltzers have advertised themselves using qualifiers such as ‘only x calories’ or the use of ‘zero sugar’. The presentations in this seminar also highlighted that such claims can be compounded by the endorsement of certain celebrities who are perhaps better known for their work in mental or physical health and present some products in a stylised way to suggest implicit claims of wellbeing.

Rebecca highlighted that while clean living is certainly a trend, it is essential that brands do not create the impression that this then applies to the consumption of alcohol. The Portman Group Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks includes Code rule 3.2(j) which states that products should not suggest that they have therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood or behaviour. The Code sits alongside the law and it’s important to remember that nutritional claims are covered by the retained European Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 (Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation).  This stipulates that health claims are not permissible for alcoholic drinks containing more than 1.2% abv.

In January of this year, the Independent Complaints Panel upheld a complaint against Colorado High which stated on the back label that it was ‘A sensory infusion of wellness-enhancing CBD and refreshingly complex gin …’ and ‘Colorado High is a spirit that supports your body’s natural balance and tastes great doing so’. The Panel was of the view that the packaging did convey a health benefit by stating that it was ‘wellness-enhancing’.

The Advisory Service would encourage all producers to focus on the taste and quality of a product in marketing as opposed to implied or explicit health claims which are likely to be problematic under the Code, and potentially, the law.

Tone of voice

New brands want to be distinctive and leave a strong impression. Some start-ups want to have a rebellious tone of voice and this has reach with certain demographics. However, if this mentality then follows through into marketing, and it is deliberately counter to responsible standards, then the reputation of the entire sector is potentially affected and all stand to lose. For 25 years our Code of Practice has been one of the ways the sector has demonstrated that it is responsible and ensures that it maintains high standards. Producers should remain mindful of this while still seeking to put out an assertive, loud, colourful presence.

Innovate or die

For much of the history of photography Kodak was the leading brand in the business by a very wide margin. However, as digital came along it failed to respond quickly enough and the brand collapsed. 20 years ago, many pubs really only had the big lagers on tap, and our speakers speculated that unless they pivot (and they are all looking at how to do so) they are going to lose further market against the crafts brewers which are innovating successfully in this space.

In the battle for bar and retail space companies are increasingly looking for new ideas. There is certainly cross fertilisation going on between soft drinks and alcohol sectors. With hard teas, coffees and lemonade in the mix it is important to remember the context of a drink. If there is alcohol in a product it must still be marketed as an alcoholic product with all of the markers and indicators ensuring consumers know what they are buying (Code rule 3.1).

Finally

This was a fantastic seminar and a very good discussion. Alcohol is an industry that has creativity at its very core and is constantly innovating. However, these new concepts can sometimes raise regulatory issues. An important element of the Portman Group’s work is to keep track of industry trends and provide advice and guidance to the industry to ensure that such growth and innovation is responsible. It brought us right up to date with the issues our Advisory Service is dealing with day in day out and highlights certain trends from the US that will need to be changed to work in the UK market.

If you are looking for help with your products and positioning before you launch contact our free Advisory Service on advice@portmngroup.org.uk.

As part of the celebrations of the 25th year of the Portman Group Code of Practice on Thursday 22 July we held the second of our series of seminars exploring the responsible regulation of alcohol. We looked at the trends of 2021and beyond, spotlighting current and future industry trends.

We were delighted to host two visionary speakers. Dan Hooper is a Co-Founder of YesMore the specialist drinks marketing agency, whose clients include Bacardi, Aperol, Pernod Ricard, Grey Goose and many others. His perspective is informed by trends he sees coming both from their base in Shoreditch, London, as well as Los Angeles and the products of their US based clients.

The Deputy Editor of Just Drinks Andy Morton spent nearly a decade tracking the stories and trends in the drinks industry writing for one of the highest circulation magazines in the sector. At Just Drinks he has cemented himself as one of the most insightful and thoughtful journalists writing about alcohol in the UK.

They led an in-depth discussion considering what they think has been significant so far in the year and what can be anticipated in the upcoming months. In response, our Advice and Training Manager Rebecca Oladipo looked at the likely ramifications of such trends in relation to the Code and advised producers on how to avoid these potential pitfalls.

The topics were wide ranging from CBD-infused products, hard seltzers, brand voice, use of influencers, the positioning of alcohol and the influence of soft drinks marketing. While we can’t squeeze every topic into this blog, we wanted to draw out our top three discussions.

Health claims

Time and again when discussing how brands are positioning CBD products, hard seltzers and soft drink crossovers, we have seen that health claims have started to creep into marketing and this trend appears to have grown as a result of the pandemic. There have been a number of recent cases flagged by the Advertising Standards Authority on the way that hard seltzers have advertised themselves using qualifiers such as ‘only x calories’ or the use of ‘zero sugar’. The presentations in this seminar also highlighted that such claims can be compounded by the endorsement of certain celebrities who are perhaps better known for their work in mental or physical health and present some products in a stylised way to suggest implicit claims of wellbeing.

Rebecca highlighted that while clean living is certainly a trend, it is essential that brands do not create the impression that this then applies to the consumption of alcohol. The Portman Group Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks includes Code rule 3.2(j) which states that products should not suggest that they have therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood or behaviour. The Code sits alongside the law and it’s important to remember that nutritional claims are covered by the retained European Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 (Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation).  This stipulates that health claims are not permissible for alcoholic drinks containing more than 1.2% abv.

In January of this year, the Independent Complaints Panel upheld a complaint against Colorado High which stated on the back label that it was ‘A sensory infusion of wellness-enhancing CBD and refreshingly complex gin …’ and ‘Colorado High is a spirit that supports your body’s natural balance and tastes great doing so’. The Panel was of the view that the packaging did convey a health benefit by stating that it was ‘wellness-enhancing’.

The Advisory Service would encourage all producers to focus on the taste and quality of a product in marketing as opposed to implied or explicit health claims which are likely to be problematic under the Code, and potentially, the law.

Tone of voice

New brands want to be distinctive and leave a strong impression. Some start-ups want to have a rebellious tone of voice and this has reach with certain demographics. However, if this mentality then follows through into marketing, and it is deliberately counter to responsible standards, then the reputation of the entire sector is potentially affected and all stand to lose. For 25 years our Code of Practice has been one of the ways the sector has demonstrated that it is responsible and ensures that it maintains high standards. Producers should remain mindful of this while still seeking to put out an assertive, loud, colourful presence.

Innovate or die

For much of the history of photography Kodak was the leading brand in the business by a very wide margin. However, as digital came along it failed to respond quickly enough and the brand collapsed. 20 years ago, many pubs really only had the big lagers on tap, and our speakers speculated that unless they pivot (and they are all looking at how to do so) they are going to lose further market against the crafts brewers which are innovating successfully in this space.

In the battle for bar and retail space companies are increasingly looking for new ideas. There is certainly cross fertilisation going on between soft drinks and alcohol sectors. With hard teas, coffees and lemonade in the mix it is important to remember the context of a drink. If there is alcohol in a product it must still be marketed as an alcoholic product with all of the markers and indicators ensuring consumers know what they are buying (Code rule 3.1).

Finally

This was a fantastic seminar and a very good discussion. Alcohol is an industry that has creativity at its very core and is constantly innovating. However, these new concepts can sometimes raise regulatory issues. An important element of the Portman Group’s work is to keep track of industry trends and provide advice and guidance to the industry to ensure that such growth and innovation is responsible. It brought us right up to date with the issues our Advisory Service is dealing with day in day out and highlights certain trends from the US that will need to be changed to work in the UK market.

If you are looking for help with your products and positioning before you launch contact our free Advisory Service on advice@portmngroup.org.uk.

Goodbye

Matt Lambert, CEO, Portman Group

At the point where COVID-19 was becoming an international crisis the groups which make up the alcohol sector responded in a most extraordinary and inspirational way. They took action across the country to ensure that communities were supported. Pubs, producers, charities, industry, and consumer groups all delivered on the ground where help was most needed.

Industry actions

We captured this work in the Supporting Communities report. In amongst the huge number of inspiring stories here are some key highlights:

  • Hand sanitiser – the industry stepped up to donate enough high strength ethanol to produce a bottle of hand sanitiser for every household in the UK.
  • Support to staff and communities – with many bartenders finding themselves out of work, the industry donated time and money to ensure that staff feel supported both financially and emotionally. Major industry players worked hard to support pubs against the threat of closure. In addition to this, pubs recognised their position as community hubs and lifelines to those living in isolated areas or conditions. They continued through the lockdowns to offer support to local communities by donating food and operating takeaway services.
  • Becoming COVID secure – for the brief periods in which licensed venues were allowed to reopen, the industry took every step to ensure pubs become safe, socially distanced environments where customers could properly relax.
  • Drinking habits – the emotional toll of lockdown on people’s mental health and wellbeing cannot be over-exaggerated. Concerns about excessive and even harmful drinking have been voiced throughout the pandemic. Organisations such as Club Soda and Drinkaware produced updated information and campaigns for those who may be struggling to moderate their drinking during such a turbulent time.

We could not possibly have anticipated the incredible and overwhelming reception that the actions shown in the report, and explored further in the accompanying blog series, would receive.

We announced the report with a short video, shared to our Twitter and LinkedIn pages. This garnered over 5,000 views and became our most engaged with post on both social channels securing shares and support from all of the major industry groups and producers. Several MPs, including the Business Ministers Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP and Paul Scully MP, publicly demonstrated their support.

In depth analysis and case study deep dives

The report was supported by a renewal of our blog series examining the work of the sector. The first series ran biweekly with blogs from our team and the sector. Between September and October 14 blogs explored the response to the first lockdown and the easing of restrictions. We heard from the British Beer and Pub Association, ClubSoda, Drinkaware, International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, Scottish Alcohol Information Partnership, Scotch Whisky Association, and the UK Spirits Alliance. Through the series we were able to launch our guidance on sampling via online sales; explore the trends in drinking behaviour showing that the majority of people continued to drink responsibly; look at sales data; and highlight the huge number of positive actions by our member companies though out the pandemic.

The interest in this series demonstrated that people wanted to be able to explore actions in more depth, so we knew that with the report launch we had the opportunity to explore issues with deep dive case studies. We heard from:

  • Ben Parker, a Senior Peer Support Manager for Central and North-West London NHS. He spoke of their work to support patients with alcohol dependency issues and about the difficulties, but also the advantages of the hybrid model working with people online and face to face, especially in securing the involvement of harder to reach groups.  Read more here.
  • Only a Pavement Away, a charity which works to get homeless people in employment within the hospitality sector and their work to support this community as they faced losing their jobs.
  • A new initiative set up by a number of industry players, All Hands to the Pump, which created a hub of information and resources for those working in the licensed trade.
  • The Drinks Trust which offered charitable support and access to over 5,000 bar workers, providing significant financial aid, as well as emotional support and vocational training with over 2,600 Covid-19 emergency grants worth £660,000; 24/7 confidential calls to counsellors and clinically trained psychotherapists; and access to online courses. Read more here.
  • The award-winning Horse & Jockey Pub in Melling, Merseyside which united its community by bringing together a volunteer squad to provide a range of support to the most vulnerable, so they didn’t go hungry or lonely during the pandemic. Read more here.
  • Last, but far from least, the Cooper King Distillery which turned over its production to make ethanol supplies to produce much-needed hand sanitiser and provided this free to more than 50 charities, health centres and key worker organisations. Read more here.

As an evidence-lead body we at the Portman Group sought to bring our evidence up to date.  In this blog it is clear from over 33 polls that most people continued to drink the same or less during the pandemic, however there were a small persistent group who drank more and who need significant targeted support.  We also carried out research into the return to pubs after lockdown and our work with YouGov showed that the public planned a cautious, careful return to pubs, something which has been borne out by events.

Wishing you well and goodbye

After running throughout this year so far, this post brings an end to our Supporting Communities blog series. Although the pandemic is not yet over the vaccines are brining hope. Here in Britain we are at last seeing the gradual relaxation of restrictions so I very much hope that we do not have cause to revise the series. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the organisation and people who contributed to report and blogs, as well as our many supporters who have shared the work covered in this series throughout its run.  I am confident that we will work together to learn from this challenging time and look forward to a much brighter future post COVID-19.

The Portman Group has published its response to the latest draft World Health Organisation (WHO) action plan to implement the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. We are concerned that the action plan is moving away from the stated aims of the strategy. We call on the WHO to commit to a renewed focus on harmful drinking and to recognise the industry as a constructive partner in tackling harm.

As the UK alcohol industry voluntary regulator and social responsibility body we have been committed to promoting responsible drinking for over 30 years. We have worked in conjunction with the sector and others to reduce harms and have seen significant declines over most metrics in the decades we have operated.

Perception of the industry

We are disappointed that the latest draft continues to frame the industry negatively and therefore does not utilise the ideas, enthusiasm and energy that the sector has in dealing with harm. It fails to recognise the ongoing work of the industry to promote moderation as well as tackling alcohol harm in both the UK and around the world, and its engagement as a constructive partner.

We believe the UK market stands as an international example of industry best practice and the substantial progress that has been made to tackle the harmful use of alcohol in the country. This has been achieved, in part, through the ongoing success of voluntary cross-industry initiatives, as well as public-private partnerships implementing public health initiatives which should not be downplayed in the current action plan.

There has been significant progress made in tackling alcohol-related harm. The moderate majority of consumers drink responsibly and the work to get here should be recognised and used as a foundation for further work.

A commitment to alcohol responsibility is evident in initiatives across the whole of the sector. This includes the high retailing standards to prevent underage sales by the UK Retail of Alcohol Standards Group, who operate the Challenge 25 scheme where 99% of retailers seek evidence that people looking under the age of 25 are of legal age to purchase alcohol.

The sector also voluntarily funds a number of partnership schemes at a local level such as Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP). Over the past 14 years, CAP have worked across 216 projects with local authorities, police, schools and local retailers to prevent underage drinking and alcohol harm to young people through a three-pillar model to educate, prevent underage sales and engage young people in positive activity to enhance their confidence, health and wellbeing[i].

Let’s focus on reducing harmful alcohol use

There is more work to be done and the action plan could be used to galvanise action. It should focus on reducing harmful alcohol use. Unfortunately it is unhelpfully diluting its focus to emphasise a reduction in overall use and the blunt measure of alcohol consumption per capita. This is especially pertinent given the polarisation in alcohol consumption and harm witnessed under COVID-19, where alcohol related deaths in England and Wales rose by 20% from 6,209 in 2019 to 7,423 in 2020[ii]. Surely this emphasises that we need to focus resources at targeted support and treatment for those drinking to highest harm.

However, the plan focuses on reducing overall alcohol consumption seeking an unrealistic 20% target to be achieved in less than a decade. It needlessly focuses capacity and resources on those individuals already drinking at moderate low levels which is close to 4 in 5 people in the UK[iii]. This is a chance to help the world come up with recommendations to reduce those drinking at the highest harm levels which, if the plan remains unchanged, will be missed and by shifting its focus away from harmful drinking, it will likely undermine the commitment of the strategy to a harm reduction approach.

Drinking and pregnancy

In the spirit of focusing on harm, we also welcome and are supportive of the inclusion of taking appropriate action to ‘prevent drinking in pregnancy and prevent foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)’ in the action plan, as an important targeted step in order to prevent alcohol harm.

We also welcome the removal of the previous wording regarding the ‘prevention of drinking among women of childbearing age’. This sentence was ill considered and was language that was counterproductive to the vital intention to prevent FASD.

This point echoes the need for the strategy to return to a focus on alcohol misuse and harm, rather than a broad attempt to reduce all consumption regardless that the majority of drinkers drink within Government recommended guidelines. When encouraging moderation and responsibility, it is essential that the steps seem reasonable, proportionate and appropriate, otherwise it may result in the counterproductive situation where people potentially ignore public health advice.

Valuing the regulators

We believe the WHO should also take note of the success of the self-regulatory and co-regulatory system which exists in the UK, with the Portman Group working alongside the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Ofcom to ensure that alcohol marketing is covered in the round across all platforms. Portman Group and ASA data shows widespread industry compliance and support for this system, ensuring that alcohol is only marketed to adults in a responsible manner.

The Portman Group Code of Practices on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks and Alcohol Sponsorship are a prime example of how self-regulatory action, with wide industry buy-in across the supply chain from producers to retailers, can have a demonstrable impact in protecting the most vulnerable in society and is a legitimate model to be included in the Action Plan. The Code of Practice, now in its 25th year, ensures that alcohol is marketed in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not have particular appeal to vulnerable consumers. Respect for the complaints process has led to more than 160 irresponsible and inappropriate products either being re-branded or removed from the market, in turn driving industry changes and protecting consumers.

The success of self-regulatory and voluntary measures, combined with a variety of initiatives from the UK Government to tackle alcohol-related harm, also underscores that the action plan should recognise the broad suite of policy options and interventions included in the Global Strategy for reducing harmful alcohol use.

The success of industry initiatives also demonstrate that the sector has a serious commitment to tackling harm in the UK and across the world. The industry is responsible and should continue to be seen as an active and willing partner as part of a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to tackling harmful alcohol use.

What next?

The Global Strategy is an opportunity to make the most of all the ideas, initiatives and investment from NGOs, governments, industry and bodies such as the Portman Group to tackle alcohol harm. This should be the focus of the plan and an opportunity to be captured. We hope that we can play our part and for the successes and learnings which come from the sector to be utilised.

The baton is now handed to the UK Government. We support much of their submission which recognises the need to focus on harm. We hope that the UK’s voice will be heard within WHO and that the action plan can be drawn back to delivering the agreed strategy. We stand ready to work with Government and the WHO.

[i] Community Alcohol Partnerships 2020 Annual Report, accessed July 2021

[ii] ONS: Quarterly alcohol-specific deaths in England and Wales, May 2021

[iii] NHS England, December 2020 / Scottish Health Survey, September 2020/ National Survey for Wales, September 2020 / Health Survey Northern Ireland, December 2020