The Portman Group has launched the sixth edition of the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks following a widescale consultation to keep it fit-for-purpose and responsive to changes in industry and society.

Key changes made to the Code include the addition of a new rule to prevent offensive marketing and a new unit-based definition for immoderate consumption following the change to weekly drinking guidelines set by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO)

The updated Code of Practice, which applies to all alcohol promoted or marketed by producers in the UK and joint promotions with on and off trade retailers, will come into force in September 2019. This gives producers and marketers six months to prepare for the changes. The key changes are:

  • A drink’s name, packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence.  The rule sets out that Producers need to be careful when referencing race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age on packaging or promotional material.
  • Protection of the vulnerable has been explicitly added as an overarching principle of the Code.
  • The Code advises that single-serve, non-resealable containers shouldn’t be more than 4 units following the change in the CMO guidelines from daily to weekly guidance. This establishes a new and credible definition for assessing complaints about irresponsible sampling promotions or packaging such as single-serve, non-resealable containers. Mitigating factors for products up to six units such as premium status, pricing and share message inclusion may be taken into account.
  • A product should not suggest any association with illegal behaviour. This has been added to the Code rule prohibiting association with bravado or violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour. This prohibits any link between alcohol marketing and contemporary illegal behaviour and the glamourising of criminal activity.
  • A product should not claim to have mind-altering qualities or suggest that it will change mood or behaviour. This has been added to the Code rule that prevents any suggestion that a product has therapeutic qualities or can enhance mental or physical capabilities.

John Timothy, Chief Executive of the Portman Group, commented: “In completing this review we have been conscious throughout of the need to drive up standards and provide better protection for consumers while at the same time supporting producers to innovate and bring forward new and exciting brands and products.  Our latest Code update reflects changes in the industry and wider society and strikes the right balance between protection and creative freedom. I am particularly pleased that we have been able to establish a common-sense approach to defining immoderate consumption, setting a unit-based threshold but providing flexibility to for the Independent Complaints Panel to consider the product in its wider context.

“There was strong support in the consultation to introduce a new rule around offence, showing that the industry understands that responsible marketing needs to evolve in line with changing standards in society.”    

Jaega Wise, Head Brewer at the Wild Card Brewery, added: “I would like to thank everyone who has campaigned on this issue, I am delighted that the Portman group has taken steps to include discriminatory marketing in its Code of Practice. 

“It is an important change that will make a big difference to how beer in particular is marketed especially with regards to women.”