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Complaints against Realm of the Unicorn Premium Gin based Liqueur and FlaGingo Electric Blue & Scottish Raspberry Gin Liqueur were not upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (Panel).

The Panel concluded the products and overall appearance – the adult style of the artwork, the 70s and 80s rock and roll music themes, colouring and shimmer effect of the liquid – were unlikely to have a particular appeal to under-18s. A copy of the full decisions are available here and here.

Both products by Zymurgorium, received complaints in relation to rule 3.2 (h) – that a drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not have a particular appeal to under-18s.

The complainant stated: “This drink looks as if it’s aimed at children. It should not be sold in such packaging or with the pearlised effect of the product. Very concerning. I actually thought it was little girls bubble bath”.

In its response, the producer explained that the substantial text content and overall appearance meant the products were clearly alcoholic and not for under-18s. Furthermore, the company explained that its brand was well-known for its inventive, creative and experimental drink flavours, and that its packaging was equally as important in conveying this.

In its judgement, the Panel reiterated its point that unicorns and flamingos could hold a broad appeal for all age groups and compliance would ultimately be determined by the overall impression conveyed. Taking into consideration the points raised by the complainant and the company’s response, as well as inspecting all aspects of the products, the Panel concluded that the products were unlikely to have a particular appeal to under-18s and accordingly did not uphold the complaints under Code rule 3.2(h).

Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “Appearance and design are important features of many alcoholic products, particularly when considered alongside other elements on packaging that emphasise and tell a brand story. In the case of these products the overall appearance and messaging were not considered to have a particular appeal to under-18s.”

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The UK alcohol industry endorses updated labelling to help consumers make informed choices

London, 10 May 2022: The Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and alcohol marketing self-regulator, today has updated its Alcohol Labelling Guidelines providing best practice guidance to alcohol producers. Download the updated guidance here and marketing toolkit here.

The Guidance sets the minimum recommended best practice elements for product labelling, which includes the provision of unit information, a pregnancy message or symbol, and a direction to Drinkaware. This update also now includes the recommendation to include the Chief Medical Officers’ Low Risk Drinking Guidelines 2016. This builds on the commitment made by Portman Group members in 2019 to include the CMO guidance on their labelling.

The previous edition was published in 2017 in collaboration with the British Beer and Pub Association, National Association of Cider Makers, Scotch Whisky Association, and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The updated guidance is now also formally supported by the Society of Independent Brewers, ensuring that there is a more explicit consideration of the role of smaller producers in sharing public health information.

The Guidance builds on over a decade of success in improving access to information, resulting in more than 99% of products containing a pregnancy warning message or logo, 94% demonstrating unit content, 93% displaying a Drinkaware or responsibility message, and almost four in five (79%) carrying the latest UK Chief Medical Officer low risk drinking guidelines (Portman Group, Market Review, September 2021 – research of June/July 2021).  Producers looking to implement the guidance are encouraged to use the Portman Group’s free Advisory Service, which offers confidential support to producers in developing their marketing.

In response to the updated guidance, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group said: “The Portman Group continues to set industry standards effectively, responsively, and at no cost to the public purse. We are proud of the huge progress made by the industry which already widely commits to responsible alcohol labelling. This updated guidance will further enhance adherence, and we hope will help small producers continue to market their products responsibly.”

This comes as Drinkaware, the independent UK alcohol education charity, lowers its licensing price for smaller producers and re-sellers. Drinkaware want to reach as many people at the risk of harmful drinking through having a strong message across most producers and re-sellers of alcohol to the public.  From mid-June any organisation with an annual turnover from alcohol sales of £2.5m (inc duty, exc VAT) or less can apply to use Drinkaware’s protected IP via www.drinkaware.co.uk. The cost of the agreement will be £50 + VAT per annum, with the aim to support widespread take up across industry’s smaller producers and operators.

Adam Jones, Business Development & Partnerships Director at Drinkaware. said “We hope that by making the Drinkaware logo license fee more accessible and cost effective for smaller producers and re-sellers we can reach as many people as possible who are at risk of harmful drinking.  We also think this is an important step in recognising the change in the profile of the drinks industry which has seen a huge number of smaller producers and sellers emerge over recent years.”

The Portman Group understands that producers face a range of challenges in ensuring that an increasing number of mandatory requirements are also incorporated on pack; and that there are specific demands on certain categories. We also appreciate that there is a cost to producers in ensuring that information on products adheres to voluntary and mandatory requirements. This is why the industry Alcohol Labelling Guidelines is supported by the Portman Group’s free Advisory Service which helps producers to incorporate best practice at a point when they are revising their product packaging and marketing.

Read the full guidance here.

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For more information contact:

Joseph Meaden

Mobile: 07709 525 971

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“We believe in having clear information on pack that aids rather than alienates consumers. It is likely that having varied guidance for people would be confusing, counterproductive and also potentially patronising.

“We support the inclusion of CMO guidance on labelling which features on the vast majority of UK alcohol products. Equally nearly half of products show calories on labels (Portman Group, November 2021) which is more likely to be useful to someone looking at their diets.”

Information on alcohol labelling taken from the Portman Group ‘Informing Alcohol Consumers 2021 UK Market Review” November 2021.

There is a moderate majority in the UK who either do not drink, or drink within the CMO’s low-risk guidelines – 77% based on combining latest data on adult drinking from Health Survey for England; Scottish Health Survey; National Survey for Wales; Health Survey Northern Ireland

Free training for small producers and three CPD-accredited courses will help ensure alcohol producers market responsibly

London, 28 April 2022: The Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and alcohol marketing self-regulator has today launched a free training programme available online for  start-ups and small producers with a turnover of  £2.5m or less, specifically aimed at helping the craft community to better understand and implement the Code of Practice on Naming, Packaging and Promotion of alcoholic drinks. Additionally, the Portman Group’s suite of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) accredited courses has been revised with three options for anyone with an interest in the alcohol industry.

Last year, the Portman Group Code celebrated its 25th year anniversary and for over 20 years the Portman Group has offered training to ensure that the Code can be best understood and applied by the sector. The updated training will provide the latest information on the Portman Group Codes of Practice, alcohol marketing regulation, and will train participants to approach marketing in a creative and socially responsible way.

The free introductory training session provides an overview of the Portman Group, its remit, the Code rules, the complaints process, and Panel decisions. It is provided in a simple downloadable video accessed on request to the Portman Group.

The three CPD-accredited training courses, which are priced from £50 per person for refresher training up to £150 per person for bespoke training, with discounts for larger groups, are:

  • Code Training designed to provide the foundation for alcohol producers and marketers to gain a broad and thorough understanding of alcohol marketing regulation in the UK.
  • Refresher Training for those who already have an understanding of the Portman Group and the wider regulatory framework of the UK but want to refresh their understanding of the Code through the recent decisions of the Independent Complaints Panel.
  • Bespoke Alcohol Regulation Training tailored to the individual’s needs and can focus on whatever elements are most valuable to the participant such as an in depth look at promotions or sampling information.

In response to the relaunch, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, said: “We are delighted to have created a new training programme that is accessible and affordable that supports small producers along with an enhanced range of good value CPD courses. With over 25 years of experience in regulating the marketing for alcoholic drinks in the UK, we are confident that our training options will help producers to promote their products creatively and responsibly.”

To learn more, visit the training page here or contact training@portmangroup.org.uk.

ENDS

For more information contact:

Joseph Meaden

Mobile: 07709 525 971

In response to the recent study by Stirling University on alcohol labelling, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator, said:

“This study shows that the majority of consumers have seen health information on products and they do not support additional front of pack warnings. It also fails to account of the amount of information that already appears on the vast majority of alcohol products such as the number of units, the Chief Medical Officer’s low risk guidance and pregnancy warning labels. Most producers also signpost to the alcohol education charity Drinkaware which allows consumers to explore the facts about drinking with the fullest amount of information and context.

“The study also makes clear that moves towards further health warnings are less about tackling harmful drinking and more about “reducing product appeal and social acceptability”. Given that the vast majority of Scottish and UK consumers drink moderately it is therefore disproportionate to propose such alarmist warnings.”

Notes

  1. The Informing Alcohol Consumers – 2021 UK market review surveyed 400 alcohol products covering the top UK brands available to consumers and shows that:
  • 99% of the products reviewed already carry a pregnancy warning logo or message.
  • 94% carry alcoholic unit content information.
  • 93% carry a reference either to responsible drinking or Drinkaware.
  • 79% carry the latest UK Chief Medical Officer guidance that it is safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week.
  • Close to half (47%) already carry calorie information on labels – showing significant progress ahead of the schedules in implementing voluntarily cross-sector European-wide commitment.  The findings re-emphasise the ongoing serious commitment of the alcohol industry to the highest standards of voluntary best practice, with Portman Group recommendations applied near universally, and ensuring that consumers are able to make an informed choice.

2. 4 in 5 (77%) UK adults either do not drink or drink below the 14 unit low risk threshold set by the Chief Medical Officer. This figure is based on combining latest data on adult drinking from Health Survey for England; Scottish Health Survey; National Survey for Wales; Health Survey Northern Ireland

Portman Group warns drinks companies on fast growing ‘hard seltzer’ products

Regulator finds 65% of consumers do not understand the term hard seltzer

London, 31 March 2022: The Portman Group today issued updated guidance to drinks companies on the fast-growing hard seltzer category. Hard seltzers are common in the US, and the UK market is expected to increase from £10m to £600m by 2025[1].

This is reflected in the UK where consumer awareness of ‘hard seltzers’ has doubled to 14% of adults having heard of the sub-category, new research by The Portman Group shows. However, understanding of the term ‘hard seltzer’ is low, as 65% of consumers fail to recognise what it means when the word ‘hard’ is linked to ‘seltzer’. The Portman Group has therefore called on companies to ensure they have ample cues to inform consumers hard seltzers are alcoholic.

In the US, hard seltzers are often marketed as a healthier, low-calorie option for drinkers. In the UK, it is against the law to make any health claims by alcoholic drinks, and this is also stipulated in the Portman Group Code of Practice Naming, Packaging and Promotion.

In response to the figures, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and alcohol marketing self-regulator, said: “The UK is the leading European market for hard seltzers, but the phrase has yet to be anglicised and commonly understood. It is therefore incumbent on producers to ensure that UK consumers have additional cues to ensure that they understand that ‘hard’ products are alcoholic and are not alluding to a product’s higher alcoholic strength.

“We would also remind producers not to make health or wellness claims. Our free Advisory Service can offer advice on the marketing of hard seltzers and other products.”

The Portman Group’s updated guidance for hard seltzers follows the finding of this study. As set out in the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks, a drink’s alcoholic nature must be communicated with absolute clarity. The updated guidance on hard seltzers recommends that the alcohol by volume (ABV) and references to ‘alcohol’ or the word ‘alcoholic’ is included on the front of the packaging as best practice to reduce the risk of consumer confusion.

Health claims are not permissible for alcohol drinks containing more than 1.2 ABV, and nutritional claims are only acceptable when meeting the criteria set out in the retained EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations 2006. Therefore, the Advisory Service urges all producers to seek independent legal advice, or guidance from Trading Standards. Read the updated guidance in full here.

[1] https://drinksretailingnews.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/20583/Going_in_hard_on_seltzers.html

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“Today’s figures continue the highly welcome long-term trend for falling alcohol related accidents and casualties on the road. However, each death is a tragedy and we remain cautious about over-emphasising the lowest overall figures on record given the impact of COVID-19 in 2020 resulting in fewer journeys by car.

“We are supportive of the THINK! campaign by DfT and we are also pleased to see the investment by the sector in campaigns to discourage drink driving as well as Drinkaware’s work. Equally there has been huge innovation in developing high quality no alcohol alternatives that support designated drivers in their choice not to drink while still enjoying a night out. Our recent study commissioned by YouGov found that the most popular reason for consumers to try low and no alcohol is ‘being able to drive home from social events’ which should continue to help people stay within the limits in the future.”

Source: Portman Group Research, January 2022, Consumer Views on Low and No Alcohol products 2021

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“The UK Government recently looked at the issue of airport licencing rules and concluded that further action was unnecessary, partly due to the positive voluntary action already being taken by the aviation, retail and hospitality industry.

“Whilst the majority of airport travellers drink moderately, we recognise the problems caused by a minority. Reducing levels of disruptive alcohol-related behaviour is a shared responsibility and we are pleased to see that positive action is already being taken in this area by the aviation, retail and hospitality industry.

“Such initiatives include the extension of existing schemes, such as the Best Bar None initiative at Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted airports. We support further rollout of similar schemes across UK airports and encourage all travellers to drink responsibly.”

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“Public Health Scotland’s latest data reaffirms a body of research that shows overall alcohol consumption fell during 2020.

“Yet in contrast alcohol-related deaths tragically increased which may in part be due to the heaviest drinkers finding it harder to access support. There is a duty of care to now focus on targeted measures for the minority, those who were already drinking at the heaviest and most harmful rates, who then increased their drinking as the impact of the pandemic compounded existing problems.

“Finally, we would be interested to understand why this report focuses on alcohol sales while downplaying the Scottish Government’s own studies on actual alcohol consumption that shows a persistent fall in drinking rates for over a decade. With the majority of people in Scotland drinking an average of 12.1 units a week, below the CMO low risk guidelines of 14 units per week, it is important to view drinking rates accurately and address this within policy making.”

Data: Scottish Government Health Survey https://scotland.shinyapps.io/sg-scottish-health-survey/ shows the average alcohol consumption in 12.1 units a week compared to the CMO low risk guidelines of 14 units per week.

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“Whilst the long term downward trend in alcohol-related hospital admissions is to be welcomed, we recognise that today’s statistics do not provide a full and representative picture as the figures are from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when general admissions were down.

“We repeat our call for the Scottish Government to take targeted measures to help those drinking at the heaviest and most harmful rates, who have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.”