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21st November 2023

Portman Group revises Code of Practice

Portman Group revises Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks to enhance protection for under-18s

The Portman Group has amended a rule in its Naming and Packaging Code of Practice to bolster protection for under-18s following a public consultation.

The Portman Group ran a narrow three month long public consultation between May and July of this year to clarify the application of Code Rule 3.2(h) relating to particular appeal to under-18s. The consultation received written submissions from a range of stakeholders, including trade associations, the charity sector and alcohol producers all of which were supportive of the proposed changes to the Code.

After consultation, the revised Code of Practice, the Sixth Edition (Amended) has now been published. The amended rule now explicitly prohibits brand names, logos and trademarks on merchandise which has particular appeal to under-18s or is intended for use primarily by under-18s.

The new rule reads in full: “A drink, its packaging, and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under 18s. A producer must not allow the placement of brand names, logos or trademarks on merchandise which has a particular appeal to under-18s or is intended for use primarily by under-18s.

The amendment to the Code ensures consistency between the Portman Group’s Naming, Packaging, and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks Code and its Alcohol Sponsorship Code, with the intention of preventing any link between alcohol and childhood.

Following publication there will now be a three-month grace period during which time producers and marketers are expected to familiarise themselves with the change to the Code and arrange training for staff, including from the Portman Group, on the newly amended Code Rule 3.2(h). The existing Code will continue to apply during this time.

During the consultation, the Portman Group also reviewed whether any process efficiencies could be made to the complaints system. Amendments have been made to the Informal Resolution Process and the formal investigation process intended to streamline the process without affecting the rights of those complaining or of producers.  The changes can be found in full here.

Commenting on the revised Code, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, said: “The Portman Group’s primary purpose as a self-regulator is to protect consumers from harm, particularly those who may be vulnerable, so a fundamental priority is protecting those who are under 18.

“We know that the industry already has a strong record of compliance in this area, with 76% of complaints not upheld in 2022 but it remains a core area of concern that we deal with in our complaints system and free, confidential Advisory Service. It’s therefore vital that the Code constantly evolves in in a way that reflects the creative and dynamic industry it regulates, in order to maintain its effectiveness.

“This change further prevents any link between alcohol and childhood.”

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Notes to editors

  1. The Portman Group was formed in 1989. It is the alcohol industry regulator and social responsibility body. It has over 160 Code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies.
  2. The Portman Group is funded by 19 member and associate member companies: Asahi UK Ltd; Aston Manor Cider; Bacardi; Beam Suntory; Brown-Forman; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Campari; C&C; Diageo GB; Edrington UK; Heineken UK; Mark Anthony Brands International; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Molson Coors Beverage Company; Pernod Ricard UK; Punch Pubs & Co; SHS Drinks; Thatchers’; and Treasury Wine Estates.
  3. The Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks was first published in 1996. In 2021, we celebrated the 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 an effective, responsive and inexpensive way.
  • Effectively – over 170 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;
  • Responsively – there have been five 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;
  • Inexpensively – the leading members of the industry are currently funding the model for all to be protected at no cost to the public purse.

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