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Portman group tackles ‘offensive marketing’ in sixth code of practice

Published:  05 March, 2019

UK alcohol regulator the Portman Group has updated its packaging and promotional guidance for society’s evolving standards, including a new rule around ‘offence’.

Key changes to the code include a new rule that a drink’s name, packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence, with particular care to be taken when dealing with the vulnerable.

Under the updated code, which follows a ten-week consultation, producers will also need to be “careful when referencing race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age”.

“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,” the group’s chief executive, John Timothy, said, adding that the latest code update aims to strike "the right balance between protection and creative freedom”.

The trade will have six months to prepare for the new code which comes into effect in September.

Timothy added he was pleased to have also been able to establish a “common-sense approach to defining immoderate consumption”.

A new rule around single-serve, non-resealable containers such as beer cans and RTDs has been introduced to reflect the change in weekly drinking guidelines set by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO.)

The new threshold for these products is now set at four units.

However, mitigating factors such as premium status, pricing and share message inclusion may be taken into account for products up to six units.

The consultation for the sixth edition of Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks was carried out in 2018.

Its eight member companies, including AB InBev UK, Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands UK, Diageo GB and Pernod Ricard UK were consulted, along with a number of other industry players and wider stakeholders in public health and government departments.

Other changes include a clause on “glamourising criminal activity”.

Producers should avoid any association with illegal behaviour, “including bravado or violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour”.

Products should also not claim to have mind-altering qualities or suggest they will change mood or behaviour.