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Portman warns against nostalgic drinks marketing

Published:  13 June, 2018

Drinks industry watchdog the Portman Group is warning manufacturers to steer clear of nostalgic references to drinkers’ childhoods with cartoon imagery in their marketing.

Complaints were made against three brands for using retro cartoons and references to the sweets or clothes of yesteryear in 2017. The watchdog upheld two of the complaints.

The Mr Gladstone’s Curious Emporium range of 9% abv drinks named after sweets such as pear drops and rhubarb & custard was found to be in breach of Portman’s code last August.

In December, brewer Tiny Rebel was also rapped for using a cartoon of a teddy bear in a hooded top on the packaging of its red ale Cwtch.

The group said both were likely to appeal to children because of the imagery used on their packaging. Gladstone’s also came under fire for not making it clear the range was alcoholic.

“Marketing rules aren’t there to stifle innovation but to protect vulnerable consumers and drive up standards,” said Portman Group CEO John Timothy.

“If in doubt we’re here to offer free and fast advice on packaging and labelling queries. A large part of our work focuses on giving producers guidance to prevent problems.”  

There has been a rise in the amount of training the group has given marketers in the past year, with 621 completing courses.

“We play an important role within a functioning and effective alcohol market and we are constantly making sure that our rules stay updated and relevant,” added Timothy.

“That’s why we are currently consulting on our Code of Practice and asking for views from across the industry and wider stakeholders.”

The third complaint for using names and imagery that could appeal to children was against Cactus Jack’s Schnapps’ Fruit Salad variant.

Portman rejected the charges that the drink’s alcohol content was not made clear on the packaging and that the packaging would appeal to children.