Skip to main content
12th November 2021

Portman Group: A complaint against Mikkeller’s Side Eyes is upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel

A recent complaint against Mikkeller’s Side Eyes Pale Ale was upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel. The complaint was made by the Metropolitan Police and a copy of the full decision is available here.

The complaint was made regarding the potential breach of two Code rules. In regards to rule 3.1, which states that the alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity, the Panel ruled that because of the cues on the can, including the large descriptor ‘pale ale’ and the product’s ABV, the product clearly communicated its alcoholic nature and the complaint was NOT UPHELD.

However, the Panel UPHELD the complaint under rule 3.2(h) which states a drink, its packaging or promotion should not have a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel considered the artwork on the can to be cartoon-like and reminiscent of Minecraft.  The artwork used bold lines with bright primary contrast colours and added to the impression that the artwork appeared immature. The Panel also stated that the inclusion of more than one character contributed to the overall impression that the illustration was childish in its appearance.

Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said:

“While innovative design is to be encouraged it is imperative that imagery does not have a particular appeal to under-18s. It is 25 years since the Code of Practice was adopted by the sector, and from the outset at its core is the principle that alcohol should only appeal to adults, which is why it is incumbent on producers to take the greatest care when innovating with an illustrative style.”

The company stated that in the future it would endeavour to carry out its own internal due diligence and work with the Portman Group’s Advisory Service, when necessary, prior to launching any new products on the market.

Mikkeller’s were invited to comment and said “It has of course never been the intention to make Side Eyes appealing to under 18s and Side Eyes has never been targeted at under 18s. We have now implemented a re-design of the label so that is clear to all” – comment provided at the discretion of PG to retain and publish.

The complainant was invited to comment and said “The Metropolitan Police are pleased with the outcome of the Portman Group’s investigation. We hope by taking this type of action, and by working in partnership with the Portman Group we can help prevent the appeal of alcohol to under 18s.” – comment provided at the discretion of PG to retain and publish.


Notes to editors

  1. Images provided
  2. A spokesperson is available for interviews upon request.
  3. The Portman Group was formed in 1989. It is the alcohol industry regulator and social responsibility body. It has over 130 Code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies.
  4. The Portman Group is funded by 14 member companies: Asahi UK Ltd; Aston Manor Cider; Bacardi; Brown-Forman; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Campari; C&C; Diageo GB; Heineken UK; Mark Anthony Brands International; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Pernod Ricard UK, SHS Drinks and Thatchers’.
  5. The Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks was first published in 1996. This year we celebrate 25th anniversary of the Code. The Code seeks to ensure that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not appeal particularly to those who are vulnerable. The Code has helped create an industry that works effectively within the context of a self-regulatory model, while encouraging design, innovation and creativity. This has been done in a cost-effective, responsive and effective way.
    • Inexpensively – the 14 leading members of the industry are currently funding the model for all to be protected at no cost to the public purse;
    • Responsively – there have been 6 updates to the Code over 25 years responding to changes in public attitudes and expanding its reach; all without recourse to Government or Parliamentary time;
    • Effectively – over 160 products have been amended or removed from the market. Many hundreds more have been helped to adhere to the Code before appearing on shelves through the support of the Advisory Service.

Press release from the Portman Group


Nicola Bates, Director of External Affairs

Mobile: 07730 525 701