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The Portman Group is just one organisation supported by the alcohol industry to demonstrate the industry’s commitment to promoting responsible drinking.

We are currently celebrating 25 years of the Code of Conduct which was founded at the time when alcopops were launched. The founding principle of the Code was that products should not particularly appeal to under 18-year-olds.

While we are seeking to ensure that the sector doesn’t entice young people to drink, we are delighted to promote the important work of Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) in preventing underage drinking and alcohol harm to young people.

CAP creates local partnerships between local authorities, police, schools, retailers, neighbourhood groups and health providers, working together to prevent alcohol-related harm to young people, improve their health and wellbeing and enhance their communities.

In the 14 years since CAP was launched, there has been a marked shift in the number of underage people drinking as well as a fall in consumption among young adults. The majority (56%) of 11-15 year olds have never had an alcoholic drink – a reverse of the situation 20 years ago when drinkers were in the majority[1]. 83% of young adults (16-24 year olds) either do not drink or stick within the CMO guidelines[2], and 25% of young adults are non-drinkers[3]. These consistent falls are probably due, in no small part, to early interventions carried out by organisations such as CAP.

CAP operates in 45 local authority areas across England, Scotland, and Wales where a total of 216 projects have been launched since 2007. Their action plans are uniquely tailored to target local problems but will often follow the three-pillar model to educate, prevent underage sales and engage young people in positive activity to enhance their confidence, health and wellbeing.

To educate

Education is key to raising awareness about the impact of underage alcohol consumption on health and society and the laws relating to young people and alcohol. CAP’s focus on alcohol education is part of a long-term, preventative approach to ensure that young people are equipped with the knowledge to stay safe from alcohol harms.

CAPs work closely with schools to provide evidence-based alcohol education, highlight the harms caused by underage drinking and encourage pupils to take part in the Royal Society of Health Young Health Champions to give them the skills and confidence to become peer mentors.

During the pandemic, with so many children restricted to online learning, CAP and its education partners came up with creative ways to ensure that alcohol education continued and could be accessed by all. It piloted an online version of the Young Health Champions programme and worked in partnership with Collingwood Learning to offer schools the opportunity to participate in Smashed Online – a powerful drama based alcohol education programme.

To engage young people in positive activities

In some areas, often the most economically deprived parts of the country where the effects of alcohol harm are highest, there are fewer opportunities for young adults to engage in meaningful positive activities. CAP encourages local partnerships to assess the leisure activities available for young people in their area, to consult with them about what they would like to do and look at ways to increase choice and accessibility. From bike maintenance to yoga, manga drawing and mental health awareness sessions, they provide safe spaces for kids to be kids.

As well as enhancing young people’s confidence, mental and physical health and wellbeing, these activities are also an excellent opportunity to deliver alcohol education in an informal setting.

To prevent underage sales

CAP works closely with the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group which was established in 2005 by national retailers in an effort to eradicate underage alcohol sales. CAPs maintain strong links with retailers, providing support, training and publicity materials to help them avoid making underage alcohol sales, adhere to Challenge 25 requirements for young people to carry acceptable ID and deter proxy purchase, when adults attempt to buy alcohol for children.

Stores that engage with CAP know there’s help available if they need it. They tend to see significant reductions in confrontations in store and abuse of staff and say it makes them feel more confident when dealing with difficult situations.

Implementation and results

CAP has a proven model which provides rapid results at a low cost, typically just £3,000 to £5,000 for each local partnership over two years. CAP’s robust evaluation framework provides a means for CAPs to measure their performance against key objectives. This has enabled it to demonstrate that CAP is a highly effective model achieving very significant improvements in key metrics linked to underage drinking.

Their impact is clear, with CAP areas demonstrating 61% average reductions in weekly drinking among 13–16-year-olds and a 50% reduction in young people asking adults to buy alcohol for them outside shops. There have also been improvements in retail operations with 99% of retailers implementing a Challenge 25 policy and 86% of retailers refusing to sell when they suspected it might be a ‘proxy’ sale.

Planning ahead

Looking to the future, CAP plans to extend its reach and set up more projects that engage with the 18-25 age bracket, especially in university towns. Growth will focus on high harm areas and priority areas are Scotland, Wales and the North East and North West of England.

Additionally, CAP will be conducting research into what they have identified as a main route for children to secure alcohol. Contrary to what you may initially think in terms of friends or small retailers being main suppliers, it is parents who appear to be the main source of alcohol with 71% of current drinkers aged 11-15 saying that they obtained alcohol from their parents.

Whilst the overall reductions in underage drinking are a great achievement there remain pockets of high harm to young people in some locations of the UK and CAP’s targeted localised approach remains of vital importance here. If you would like to find out more about their work, go to: https://www.communityalcoholpartnerships.co.uk/

 

[1] NHS Digital 2019 https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/smoking-drinking-and-drug-use-among-young-people-in-england/2018

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

[3] 28% – NHS England, December 2020 / 17% – Scottish Health Survey, September 2020/ 23% National Survey for Wales, September 2020 /22% – Health Survey Northern Ireland, December 2020

 

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.

Portman Group CEO Matt Lambert will be speaking at the brand new Low2NoBev conference on Wednesday 9 June. Taking place in person at the Truman Brewery in East London, the two-day event seeks to give the sector its own voice and support its future growth. From low-abv beers, ciders, wines & spirits to premium soft drinks, cordials and mixers, it will be the must-attend event for anyone who sources and buys low and no-alcohol beverages across retail, hospitality, convenience and the on/off licensed trade.

There are a number of sessions targeted at anyone who sources and buys low and no alcohol beverages across retail, hospitality, convenience and the on/off licensed trade. Sessions include: a live focus group to understand what motivates a diverse range of consumers, insights for off-trade to promote growth, a panel discussion on current and upcoming trends for the sector and also looking at repositioning the low and no post COVID-19.

Matt Lambert will be speaking on a panel looking at ‘No-how’ and will focus on understanding the low and no category. It will deal with the complexities of the space, which covers everything from alcohol-free spirits and beers, to 3% ABV wines. The panel will discuss how to ensure the right product reaches the right consumer, labelling and the current regulatory landscape. Chaired by Daniel Woolfson, Food and Drink editor at The Grocer other speakers on the panel will be:

Jason Clarke, Co-founder & Creative Director, Genius Brewing

Dan Crowther, Director, Hedonist Drinks

Rob Fink, Founder, Big Drop Brewing Co

Pete Martin, Regulatory Affairs Director, Ashbury

 

If you want to know more come to the session at 1:50pm on Wednesday 9 June.

 

For tickets and further information visit: https://www.low2nobev.com/

All Hands to the Pump – supporting pubs and employees to reopen safely

All Hands to the Pump is an initiative designed to support those working in or with the licensed trade. The organisation offers access to webinars, events, and training.

It was developed as a partnership by key industry groups: Best Bar None, National Pub Watch, Institute of Licensing and Association of Town and City Management.

The initiative was set up to assist hospitality workforces to gear up for the gradual re-opening of pubs, bars and restaurants following the third lockdown. The reopening began in England, with outdoor hospitality from 12 April. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland then followed with varying restrictions implemented allowing for the enjoyment of hospitality again.

The offer

Training and events are run regularly and provided free of charge. The training sessions cover topics such as risk assessment and how to become COVID-secure, essential lessons that are crucial to the safe and sustainable reopening of licensed venues. All training is run virtually via online webinars, showing the flexibility and adaptability of this industry, even in the face of such immense challenges. So far, the online webinars have been viewed by over 2,500 users.

The partnership also signposts free resources including guidance on reopening, financial support, and emotional support for employees’ mental health. Our Supporting Communities report that highlighted the significant work of the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic detailed a number of the charities and groups acting as a network to offer similar assistance to those working in the licensed trade sector. The respective reach that each has, and ways needed to support various groups, underscored how diverse the sector is and how vital these services became during the pandemic. All Hands to the Pump has played an important role in creating an accessible hub for all those affected by the pandemic and associated long-term closure of hospitality venues.

All Hands to the Pump has become a go-to hub for workforces across the licensed trade looking to come back stronger than ever as hospitality reopens. Yet again, the industry has proved its resilience and commitment to working together to provide a strong network of COVID-secure businesses that will be able to bounce back from this crisis.

Any individual or group who is offering free training or resources which may be useful to those working in or with the trade, are encouraged to get in touch with All Hands to the Pump so those resources can be listed and made available to the community free of charge. Additionally, All Hands to the Pump invites anyone working in or with the on trade to get in touch via the contact us page and one of the team’s experts will be in touch to offer free advice.

For more information on All Hands to the Pump, visit https://allhandstothepump.com

Only a Pavement Away – The Hospitality Industry Supports Homeless People into Employment

Following the publication of our Supporting Communities report, we continue to engage with industry groups and organisations who play important roles in advancing the alcohol and hospitality sectors. Using the report as a springboard, we are continuing to shine a light on the valuable work of these groups.

One such organisation is Only a Pavement Away (OAPA), a charity which works to support homeless people by getting them into employment in the hospitality sector.

OAPA was founded by married couple Greg and Gill Mangham who were shocked and saddened by both the sheer number of homeless people living in the UK, as well as the way the homeless community are treated.

Greg and Gill refused to accept that homelessness is the direct result of a person’s actions and point to an inherently flawed system. They also spotted that the hospitality industry was growing quickly and needed an increased workforce to meet demand. Greg had spent 40 years working in the industry and saw an opportunity to connect homeless looking for jobs with companies needing staff. He used his extensive contacts and knowledge to build the charity.

OAPA acts as the bridge between charities working to get people who are ex-offenders or homeless into employment, and those businesses who need to recruit new employees and are keen to support people to have a second chance. As a not-for-profit recruiter they created a programme to match candidates with employers.  With candidates undergoing initial assessments, support to prepare for interviews and relevant training courses employers can be confident in them. The process is open and transparent which removes any caution from the employer or the need for the prospective employee to explain the details of their circumstances.

Launched in 2018, by 2020, it had already placed 77 people into employment. With every homeless or former prisoner costing £20,000 to the economy they have helped to add £2.5 million worth of value to the UK economy. Additionally, they keep close to those on the streets and support rough sleepers by donating flasks, warm clothes, blankets, and food and drink.

The charity is partnered with major players in the hospitality sector including pubcos who stepped up to support the COVID-19 relief effort, covered in the Supporting Communities report. These include Youngs & Co Brewery, Gaucho, Greene King, Malmaison, Pub Love, Yummy, Qoot, The Ivy Collection and many more.

OAPA provides a gateway to employment and vital associated services such as support and training. Beyond this, OAPA is committed to providing additional assistance to the most vulnerable in the programme. This includes providing housing, travel, uniform, and groceries. A donation to OAPA covers these essentials.

If you would like to learn more about Only a Pavement Away, contact enquries@onlyapavementaway.co.uk. If you’re part of business that would like to become a partner and help those facing homelessness, get into employment, contact workwithus@onlyapavementaway.co.uk.

Portman Group-YouGov research on pandemic drinking and the return to pubs

As the UK begins the slow process of loosening restrictions designed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portman Group continues to track the impact on the UK’s drinking behaviour. Our third study [i] with research from YouGov combines the insights gained from our previous two polls to reflect on how the UK public drank alcohol over the past year and their intentions regarding the reopening of UK hospitality. It shows that UK drinkers stuck to moderation over the past year and plan a cautious, careful return to pubs.

Our full report summarising our survey results show that:

  • The majority continue to drink moderately: 78% of UK adults either do not drink or drink within the CMO guidelines – echoing the results consistently seen in official Government data.
  • Furthermore, 73% of UK drinkers say they drank either the same or less since the beginning of the pandemic compared to previous years – close to a third (32%) of UK drinkers said they have cut down.

[i] YouGov surveyed 2,303 adults from across the UK online between 31 March and 1 April. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

  • Despite the statistics there is a myth that COVID-19 and lockdown has led to increased drinking: A large majority (69%) of UK adults believe that the UK population has increased alcohol consumption over the last year, with only 6% correctly stating that we have overall drank less.
  • The results signal an orderly return to pubs and bars: Half (50%) of previous UK pubgoers said they intended to visit pubs and bars about the same frequency as before, with around 14% intending to visit more and 22% visiting less.
  • Pubgoers seek friends, family and normality. Previous UK pubgoers said that they are most looking forward to being able to socialise with friends and family (cited by 68% of respondents) and regaining a sense of normality (57%).
  • 86% of UK drinkers said they intend to drink the same (71%) or less (15%) compared to before the pandemic as the hospitality sector begins to reopen.

How do these results fit in to the wider picture of alcohol in the UK over the past year?

Our latest poll results fit into a much broader picture that the UK population, on the whole, drank the same or less alcohol than they usually would over the past year.

Our analysis of 33 publicly available polls taken since the start of the pandemic and commissioned by the Portman Group, Public Health England, Drinkaware and Alcohol Change UK show that just over half (51%) drank the same as compared to before the pandemic and just over a quarter (26%) have either cut back or cut out alcohol altogether.

This analysis also suggests that around 23% of drinkers have increased their consumption, though our previous and current polls suggest that many who are drinking more still remain within the Chief Medical Officer lower-risk guidelines.

These survey findings are backed by further emerging evidence that overall alcohol consumption and sales have decreased. In February 2021, Public Health Scotland published the findings of two studies it commissioned which “suggest that at a population level people were drinking at reduced levels in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic”. The research suggests that during the first lockdowns there was a 6% reduction in the total volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland, England and Wales, and a decline in average weekly intake in Scotland of 0.8 units and a decline of 1.5 units in England[i].

Public Health England figures suggest that average weekly unit intake has generally remained around 11 units throughout the past year[ii].

Yet we are concerned about the minority who have increased their drinking. Our latest findings echo previous studies that identify the increases by those who were already drinking at heavier and more harmful rates before the pandemic. The reasons underlying this are likely multifaceted and exacerbated by the isolation and uncertainty by lockdown restrictions imposed to tackle the virus. As we emerge from lockdown, we reiterate that our shared focus should be on reaching out to those struggling with alcohol dependence or those on the brink of dependence. We would encourage all those concerned about their drinking, or about the drinking of someone around them, to seek help from a health professional or visit Drinkaware.co.uk for free support and practical advice.

Overall, our latest poll results fit into a much broader picture that the UK population, on the whole, drank the same or less alcohol than they usually would over the past year. Furthermore, that UK drinkers intend to continue this moderate behaviour as they cautiously return to pubs and bars over the coming months.

[i] Public Health Scotland: Alcohol sales and consumption in Scotland during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic – briefing paper, February 2021

[ii] Public Health Scotland: Wider Impacts of COVID-19 on Health monitoring tool, as of April 2021

Latest results from Portman Group and UCL studies highlight continuing UK moderate majority throughout lockdowns and beyond

You may have read last week initial reports that University College London’s ongoing COVID-19 study had found that half of adults reported that they were drinking more now compared to a year ago.

Whilst the headlines were certainly startling, UCL have since confirmed that the initial press release was incorrect due to a technical error and has been retracted and updated.

In actual fact, the UCL survey[i] of over 70,000 UK adults across the UK found that 83% of adults reported either no change (65.5%) or a reduction (17.5%) in their alcohol consumption now compared to March/April 2020. Instead of half, only around 17% of adults reported they had been drinking more.

These results fit with the results of our most recent poll with YouGov, where 73% of UK drinkers said that they were either drinking the same or less since the beginning of the pandemic compared to previous years. In our poll close to a third (32%) of UK drinkers said they had reduced their alcohol consumption, whilst just over a quarter (26.3%) said they were drinking more[ii].

Adding the latest data to our tracking of 33 publicly available polls from the start of the pandemic, commissioned by groups such as the Portman Group, Public Health England, Drinkaware and Alcohol Change UK, shows that over three quarters (77%) of UK adults are drinking the same or less over the past year.

Taken together around half (51%) of adults report no change to their alcohol consumption, whilst over a quarter (26%) report drinking less and under a quarter (23%) report drinking more.

Increases in consumption should also be placed in context, with the Portman Group’s latest and previous polls suggesting that many who are drinking more still remain within the Chief Medical Officer lower-risk guidelines. The latest UCL research also provides some encouraging news that 40.1% of UK adults drinking over the Chief Medical Officer guidelines of 14 units per week had decreased their drinking.

However, our latest findings also echo previous concerns that increases over the past year have been fuelled by those already drinking at heavier and more harmful rates[iii]. The reasons for this increase are likely multifaceted and potentially exacerbated by continued lockdown restrictions cutting off social and professional support or deterring people from seeking help in the first instance.

As we emerge from lockdown our shared efforts need to focus on tackling hazardous drinking and helping those struggling with alcohol dependence or those on the brink of dependence. We would encourage all those concerned about their drinking, or about the drinking of someone around them, to seek help from a health professional or visit Drinkaware.co.uk for free support and practical advice.

Yet it is also useful to take a step back and see that the moderate majority of UK population, on the whole, drank the same or have cut down their alcohol consumption over the past year, dispelling the myth that Britain turned to the bottle during the pandemic.

[i] UCL COVID-19 Social Study Results Release 33, 23 April 2021

[ii] Portman Group: Brits return to the pub – but it’s for pals not pints, 9 April 2021

[iii] Portman Group-YouGov survey on alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown, June 2020

Taking Responsibility – The Portman Group hosts first event

Last week, the Portman Group hosted its inaugural seminar in the Taking Responsibility series.  The ‘Responsible Regulation of Alcohol Seminar’ showcased the self-regulatory model, reviewing the changes from the past three years since the Code was revised and embedded, and lookied forward to likely changes in the regulatory landscape for 2021.

There were four key speakers: Portman Group Chair, Philip Rycroft, Portman Group CEO, Matt Lambert, Director of Regulation, Laura Demorais and Advice and Training Manager, Rebecca Oladipo. The event was attended by key industry figures, organisations, and businesses as well as retailers including representatives from major supermarket chains.

The Code and Regulatory Landscape

Philip Rycroft opened the seminar providing his perception as to the current regulatory landscape for alcohol. He underscored that the post-COVID-19 recovery will be challenging and unpredictable and the industry needs to work together to demonstrate its commitment to responsible retail and marketing, with the Portman Group playing its essential role.

This year, the Code celebrates its 25th Anniversary and Laura Demorais explored the significance of the Code of Practice and how this has informed where alcohol regulationl stands today. She detailed the Code’s recent history, seen in further detail in the Regulating Through Change report. She considered the significant changes made to the Sixth Edition of the Code which included adding protection of the vulnerable as an overarching principle; a new rule on widespread offence; and adding that a product should not suggest any association with illegal behaviour – to name just a few additions. The industry stepped up to demonstrate its support for the Code and the resulting audit showing 95% compliance with the amended Code. Laura also shared some landmark decisions which are particularly relevant to current regulation-related issues.

Advice and Training

Rebecca Oladipo provided an overview of the Portman Group’s training offer. She highlighted the complex way in which alcohol regulation is managed, with the Portman Group working closely with the ASA, Ofcom and the law. The full list of the organisations involved in regulating the alcohol space can be read here. Given the complex environment, and to ensure that the Code is easily interpreted and reflected in marketing before a product launch or promotion, the Portman Group offers free and confidential advice to the whole sector – whether a large or small producer or marketing agency. This advice has enabled producers to avoid hundreds of potential complaints about products going to market which could have been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel, thereby pre-emptively protecting consumers.

Rebecca also announced the launch of a new training course designed specifically for retailers. This was put together in response to discussions with major retailing groups and seeks to address buying, marketing, and corporate teams. If you would be interested in booking, please contact info@portmangroup.org.uk

Looking to the future

Finally, Matt Lambert discussed the Portman Group mission and aims for the coming year. With 25 years of successfully providing a world leading self-regulatory system the Portman Group wants to lay the groundwork for another 25 years as a strong and effective regulator. The Portman Group delivers high-quality self-regulation in a way that responds to changes in society and at no cost to the public purse. This year will see a focus on the regulation and promotion of low and no alcohol and a focus on strengthening the self-regulatory model, chiefly by welcoming new members and broadening the reach of the Portman Group.

We wanted to thank our audience for engaging with the programme and their questions. this resulted in an interesting discussion exploring the Portman Group’s relationship with the ASA and the continued discussions surrounding the use of the word ‘skinny’ as a product descriptor.

This is the first event in our series and our next seminar is planned for July. For updates on future events, keep checking the website and our Twitter feed, @PortmanGroup. If you have any questions on the seminar, the issues discussed or the new training service, please contact info@portmangroup.org.uk

Running the alcohol recovery day programme during COVID-19

Every day I work with those who have struggled with alcohol and substance addiction. We run a ‘Recovery Day Programme’ as part of rehabilitation in the community. It helps those who have struggled with substance use to come together to develop tools for their well-being and personal growth and strategies to prevent a relapse.

Prior to the pandemic, our three-month abstinence-based programme was heavily focused on in-person contact and group work. However, the lockdown quickly changed that, forcing us to think on our feet and adapt our programme so we could provide ongoing support to our clients at a distance.

We had to think around the problem and utilise technology.

We encouraged our client’s set-up on WhatsApp and Zoom allowing us to keep the group connected. It was vital to ensure continued group support, and to stay in touch

virtually to allow meaningful interventions. Within two weeks we had successfully built an adapted programme online.

However, some were digitally excluded so we ensured that they wouldn’t miss out. We posted the group work to complete with a self-addressed envelope to return. We also ensured that these clients were called more regularly to receive support. When initial restrictions were lifted, we set up a conference facility in the office to allow for group work, while the rest of their peers met on Zoom.

It is amazing how tech can be an effective way to reach out beyond the service, and to help in its support. Given the lockdowns every one of us knows the importance of remaining in touch with our loved ones. Some people who are alcohol dependent may have lived a chaotic or unmanageable life style, resulting in difficulties with close relationships. It was truly rewarding that this time and our engagement with smartphones actually helped a client to see his Mum for the first time in a year. By showing him how to share video through WhatsApp he is now better supported at home. We are now in talks about rolling out digital devices to those who may be excluded from accessing interventions which are facilitated on a virtual platform.

This hybrid model has enabled us to better cater our support to people’s lives, allowing people to get help how best they choose – either in-person or online – whilst still allowing them to stay connected. We were extremely conscious that people didn’t lose out who couldn’t access technology, but have noticed that others, especially with childcare needs or have cultural stigmas around treatment, were more willing to participate. It has been described to me as a blessing in disguise and we have seen younger people and those with physical difficulties state that this is a better format for them. Zoom has broken down barriers.

This change, which came out of necessity, will likely become the new normal going forward.

Portman Group’s Advisory Service issues guidance on CBD

CBD products are a fast-growing market in the food, beverage, and health industries. However, in the alcohol industry, this is still an emerging innovation and we have therefore produced guidance to help the industry in marketing CBD infused alcohol products.

Our new guidance makes it clear that there is a distinction between cannabis and CBD. Cannabis is a controlled drug, and its use, growth and distribution are illegal in the UK.  In contrast to this, CBD is a legal cannabinoid in the UK.  Therefore, references to CBD will not necessarily breach the Code rule on illicit drugs.

The law on the use of CBD in food and drink products is complex and the Portman Group does not imply that the inclusion of CBD in alcoholic drinks is legally permitted.  We urge producers to seek legal advice before placing products containing CBD on the market.

Precedent

The Independent Complaints Panel recently ruled that a CBD infused product, Colorado High, breached the Code on two counts.

As part of the case, the Panel noted that the back label of the product stated ‘wellness-enhancing CBD’ and ‘Colorado High is a spirit that supports your body’s natural balance’.  The Panel was of the view that these statements did convey a health benefit.

In addition to this, after carefully considering the risk that consumers might infer therapeutic qualities from the descriptor ‘CBD Gin’, the Panel concluded on the basis of the evidence in this case that products containing CBD should name it as an ingredient but should not incorporate CBD into the name of the product, the product descriptor or feature it prominently on their packaging.

The Panel concluded that the description ‘CBD Gin’ on the front of the bottle, as well as the claims about wellbeing elsewhere on the packaging, breached Code Rule 3.2(j).

The Panel also noted that Colorado was one of the first states in the US to decriminalise recreational cannabis and that ‘high’ was commonly associated with drugs. The Panel considered that in this context these elements created an indirect association with illicit drugs and upheld the product under Code Rule 3.2(c).

CBD Guidance

The guidance focuses on two main areas under the Code, but it is important to remember that the entirety of the Code will still apply.

Illicit Drugs

Words and images associated with recreational cannabis are likely to create an association with illicit drugs and should be avoided.

If there is any claim, implied or explicit, for the effect of CBD (for example linked with a brand name) then this is likely to be found in breach of the Code.  This type of claim is problematic whether or not the claimed effect is likely to be achieved in practice.  For example, the ‘high’ in ‘Colorado High Gin’ was found to create an association with illicit drugs, even though CBD is not normally associated with a ‘high’.

Therapeutic qualities

Health claims should not be made on alcoholic drinks above 1.2% ABV.  We would advise producers to avoid any claims about health or mood change.

References to the taste and quality of a product are likely to be acceptable under the Code and we would encourage producers to focus on these elements when making emotive statements. For the avoidance of doubt, suggestions that a drink can invoke feelings, directly caused by consumption of the product, for example ‘chill out’, or ‘unwind’, are likely to be problematic.

We do recognise that it may be necessary to inform consumers that a product contains CBD as an ingredient, but this must be done in a factual and ‘non-emotive’ way.  Any product which incorporates CBD into its marketing, such as the brand name, or product descriptor, is likely to breach the Code for suggesting an implicit health effect.

We also have further guidance on both of our Codes of Practice and wider industry trends. To see the full suite, click here.

If you have any questions about the guidance or would like an informal conversation about a product’s packaging or promotion, please email advice@portmangroup.org.uk with full details of your query.  We’ll get back to you within 48 hours, free of charge.