At the core of the Portman Group’s work is the work of the regulatory team. For over 25 years they have practically and pragmatically helped the sector to be responsible through the management of firstly the Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of alcoholic drinks in the UK and then the Sponsorship Code. Through the free Advisory Service, products and campaigns can be reviewed before going to market, helping to ensure that potentially problematic products never reach the shelves. The team also provides training to help the industry understand the Code’s application, and this year launched a brand new suite of CPD-approved courses, as well as a free seminar specifically for start-ups and small businesses.
All this proactive work helps to keep complaint numbers low and enhances the sector’s delivery for consumers.
It has been another particularly busy and exciting year for us which you can now read all about in our 2022 Regulation Report. It is available to view here. It has been a significant year with the sector uniting to extend and launch updated Alcohol Labelling Guidelines; amendments to two pieces of guidance made to strengthen the industry’s actions to avoid drink driving; and the launch of new training and more precent setting decisions.
Alcohol Labelling Guidelines
For years the UK alcohol industry has proactively worked to ensure that alcohol labelling is both socially responsible and informative for consumers. As a result of commitments in the Government’s 2011 Responsibility Deal, the Portman Group worked with the sector to create Alcohol Labelling Guidance. These decade long commitments demonstrate how to provide consumers with more product and health information than ever before.
In 2022, the Portman Group expanded and updated the Alcohol Labelling Guidance, the best practice on communicating alcohol and health-related information for producers. The guidance was produced with the endorsement and support of the British Beer & Pub Association, National Association of Cider Makers, Scotch Whisky Association, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, and for the first time the Society of Independent Brewers. The Portman Group provides free visual materials and product advice to the entire industry so that it can uphold this best practice for on-pack information. As a minimum, this includes the Chief Medical Officer’s Low Risk Guidance, pregnancy warnings, unit information on packaging, and signposting to Drinkaware, the independent alcohol advice charity.
Changes to guidance as an anti-drink driving measure
In 2022, the Portman Group took steps to strengthen action against drink driving and issued a change to guidance regarding sampling and the Code rule 3.2f (irresponsible/immoderate consumption).
Promotions which involve product sampling are subject to the rules in the Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks. The Advisory Service regularly provides advice to producers on how to activate sampling activity in a responsible manner and advice tends to focus on guidance under Code rule 3.2(f) due to its requirement not to encourage immoderate, irresponsible or illegal consumption. Sampling is the giving away of free alcohol in small quantities. While the act of sampling tends to involve the giving away of a small amount of a product – just enough to assess the taste and quality – producers and marketing agencies often require further advice regarding how and where such samples can be distributed.
In 2022, the Advisory Service revised guidance regarding unsealed sampling activities in carparks of licensed premises. An unsealed sampling activity involves the offer to a consumer to try a sample of alcohol for immediate consumption. To avoid the inadvertent encouragement of drink-driving, the Advisory Service now recommends that producers should avoid targeting sampling activities at drivers, regardless of the amount of alcohol being given away, including if it is well below the drink-drive limit for best practice purposes. The updated guidance recommends that unsealed sampling should not be held in a carpark of a licensed premises (a supermarket or pub for example) to ensure that producers are not encouraging irresponsible consumption, such as drinking before driving.
The Portman Group has offered training under its Codes of Practice for over 20 years to help maintain high standards of responsible marketing. In May 2022, the Portman Group redesigned its Continuing Professional Development (CPD) accredited training programme and we are delighted to now offer four types of engaging, informative, training. To improve the attendee experience, and to ensure our materials are relevant and delivered to the highest standards, three of our seminars are CPD certified. To ensure that all producers have access to training, we launched our first online introductory training seminar. The seminar is free to access for producers with a turnover of less than £2.5 million and is tailored for those starting out in the industry as it provides an overview of who we are, our regulatory remit, the Code rules, the complaints process, and explores some Panel precedent-setting decisions.
Alongside this, in the report we explore regulation through numbers, looking at the advice requests and complaints we’ve processed over the year. We welcomed four new Independent Complaints Panel members, significantly increasing our diversity of experience and background, and as with every year the Panel made precedent setting decisions.
These are just some of the highlights in the Taking Responsibility for Alcohol Regulation Report 2022 – for more insights read more here.