Portman Group unveils sixth Code of Practice

4th March, 2019 by Melita Kiely

UK alcohol watchdog the Portman Group has revealed its updated Code of Practice regarding alcohol packaging and advertising, which now includes guidelines to prevent offensive marketing.


The sixth edition of the Portman Group’s Code of Practice will come into effect in September 2019

The sixth edition of the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks comes following a wide consultation to ensure the rules remain up to date and relevant. It will come into effect in September 2019.

One of the key changes is the inclusion of a rule to prevent offensive marketing, which stresses producers must take care when referencing race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age on packaging or promotional materials.

The updated code also includes a new unit-based definition for immoderate consumption in response to the change in weekly drinking guidelines set by the chief medical officer (CMO). Single-serve products and non-resealable beverages must not contain more than four units of alcohol, according to the updated CMO guidelines.

However, the code adds that “mitigating factors” for products containing up to six units will be taken into consideration, which can include a product’s premium status, price point and brand message.

Further changes are also outlined, such as ensuring a product does not suggest any association with illegal behaviour and forbidding “association with bravado or violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour”.

The new code also references that products should not claim to have mind-altering qualities or suggest that it will change mood or behaviour, which includes any suggestions that a product has therapeutic qualities or can enhance mental or physical capabilities.

John Timothy, chief executive of the Portman Group, said: “In completing this review we have been conscious throughout of the need to drive up standards and provide better protection for consumers, while at the same time supporting producers to innovate and bring forward new and exciting brands and products.

“Our latest code update reflects changes to the industry and wider society and strikes the right balance between protection and creative freedom.

“I am particularly pleased that we have been able to establish a common sense approach to defining immoderate consumption, setting a unit-based threshold but providing flexibility too for the Independent Complaints Panel to consider the product in its wider context.”

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