A recent complaint about Brasserie De La Senne’s product, Taras Boulba, was upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel. A copy of the full decision is available at insert link to page with final decision on website.

Each time a new Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks is introduced, the Portman Group commissions an independent audit of the market to measure compliance. In 2019, the Portman Group introduced the sixth edition of the Code of Practice and commissioned Zenith Global to carry out an audit of 500 products which were randomly selected from the market. Zenith Global was concerned that Taras Boulba might breach of the Code of Practice. The full audit report is due to be published in Spring 2020.

During the audit, Zenith Global expressed concern the imagery on the label may evoke associations between the product and violent and aggressive behaviour. They noted that although the imagery is based on a novel, it is unlikely that many consumers will be familiar with the story.

Reviewing the product in detail, the Panel noted:

  • The image on the product was problematic because it depicted a violent act and the Panel were particularly concerned to see that it illustrated violence directed at an individual who showed a fearful expression.
  • The character’s use of a beer barrel to inflict violence on their victim further connected the violence to alcohol which is a clear breach of the Code.

In conclusion, the Panel stated that the use of violent imagery on the label meant that the product directly linked violence and aggression to the product. For this reason, the complaint was upheld under Code paragraph:

  • 3.2(b) – A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour

Commenting on the decision the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Jenny Watson, said:

“The Panel sympathised with Brasserie De La Senne who had entered an unfamiliar market and it was noted that producers could use stories and satire, as well as well-designed labels, for packaging and alcoholic products without breaching the Code. However, the Panel believed that a label depicting a man throwing a beer barrel at a cowering victim on the floor conveyed aggression and further connected the violence to alcohol. This ruling once again highlights how important it is for producers, both small and large, to make use of the free advisory service before launching their product in the UK.”


For more information please contact:

Nicola Bates or Anna Liveing

0207 290 1463 or 07719 324021 or comms@localhost

Notes to editors:

  1. The full decision from the Independent Complaints Panel is available on the Portman Group’s website.
  2. The Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks applies to all pre-packaged alcoholic drinks and the promotional activities of all drinks producers. A copy of the Code may be downloaded here.
  3. This complaint was considered under the sixth edition of the Code of Practice.
  4. The Independent Complaints Panel is headed by Jenny Watson CBE a former Chair of the Electoral Commission and Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission. The Panel is drawn from a range of civic society who has worked in education, youth work, charity, criminal justice, health, marketing, hospitality and the alcohol industry. It is this mix of views and experiences which provides them with the authority to jointly provide a considered view on complaints based on the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks. The members of the panel can be found here.
  5. Since the Code was introduced in 1996, the packaging and/or marketing of over 150 drinks have been found to breach the Code. In the case of a Code breach concerning a drink’s packaging or point-of-sale material, a timetable for implementing the necessary changes – not normally exceeding three months – will be supplied in writing to the company concerned. Retailers may be notified of the decision taken by the Independent Complaints Panel and requested not to replenish stocks or point-of-sale material of any product found in breach of the Code, after the date specified by the Code Secretariat.
  6. The Portman Group provides a free and confidential Advisory Service for alcohol producers to check products prior to launch and seek advice on responsible alcohol marketing. Over 2000 separate advice requests have been answered since 2010. Email: advice@localhost.
  7. The Portman Group is the alcohol industry regulator. It has over 130 code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies. The Portman Group is funded by eight member companies: Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands UK; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Carlsberg UK; Diageo GB; Heineken UK; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Pernod Ricard UK.
  8. A high-resolution image of Taras Boulba is available on request.