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Four in five alcohol complaints about under-18 appeal

A report by the UK’s Portman Group found that 85% of complaints about alcohol packaging and marketing were related to their appeal to children.

Zymurgorium gin liqueur
Complaints were made over products that used shimmering liquid, which could appeal to children

The new report from alcohol watchdog the Portman Group revealed that its Independent Complaints Panel received more complaints about products appealing to under-18s this year than any other category.

However, 76% of complaints were not upheld.

Complaints in the category in 2022 included products which used shimmering liquid and interactive elements such as lights and illustrations, which claimed the overall impression of the packaging had a particular appeal to those under the legal drinking age.

In July, complaints against a trio of gins, including two Marks & Spencer liqueurs, were upheld for appealing to under-18s and failing to clearly communicate their alcoholic content.

The report also noted that producers were more likely to seek advice from the Portman Group’s Advisory Service over the rule against appealing to under-18s (29%) than any other part of the Code.

This was followed by guidance on excessive consumption (20%) and bravado (15%).

The Portman Group said this rise in complaints coincides with a fall in underage drinking worldwide, highlighting ‘increased awareness’ from producers in making sure their alcohol marketing does not appeal to children.

Matt Lambert, CEO the Portman Group, said: “As a self-regulatory body, we work effectively with a responsible sector to ensure that we eliminate irresponsible marketing, and discourage under-18s from being attracted to alcohol.

“There are a number of practical industry schemes which have been hugely effective in reducing the occurrence of underage drinking in the UK, and the Portman Group is proud to stand with them in playing our role in reducing harmful drinking. This is an approach that we know works, with many producers using their brands to showcase responsibility messages at major events, for example.

“It is positive to see producers continuing to take advantage of our Advisory Service to ensure that their products comply with the Portman Group’s Codes of Practice, and we encourage others to do so to help eliminate underage drinking.”

The Portman Group’s Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks seeks to ensure that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible way, only to those of legal drinking age in the UK, and in a way that does not appeal to vulnerable people.

The Portman Group has regulated alcohol sponsorship since 2003.

Earlier this summer, the panel upheld a complaint against vodka producer Jatt Life’s sponsorship of a driving event for using images of people who appeared to be under the age of 25.

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