The Portman Group is a not for profit organisation which regulates the promotion and packaging of alcoholic drinks sold or marketed in the UK.  It aims to ensure that alcohol is marketed in a socially responsible way and only to adults.  The Portman Group controls standards of advertising alongside the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and Ofcom.  It complements regulation by these bodies rather than duplicating it.  Alcohol producers therefore need to ensure that their online advertising, social media and product placement complies with the CAP/BCAP Codes as well as the specific rules on alcohol advertising under the Portman Code.

The sixth edition of the Portman Group’s Code of Practice for the Responsible Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks comes into effect on 23rd September 2019.

The main areas changes, which are accompanied by guidance notes to help with compliance are:

  • There is a ban on packaging which could cause widespread offence. The rule requires producers to be careful when referencing race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age on packaging or promotional material.  This reflects a trend that we have been seeing away from sexist packaging. See Guidance Note on Serious or widespread offence.
  • A product should not portray any association with illegal behaviour. The Code requires producers not to create an association with contemporary illegal behaviour or glamorising  criminal activity such as gang culture.  See Guidance Note on Bravado, violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social and illegal behaviour.
  • Packaging must not suggest that the product will change mood or behaviour or have mind-altering qualities. See Guidance Note on Therapeutic qualities, enhancing mental and/or physical capabilities and change in mood or behaviour.
  • ingle-serve, non-resealable containers should not contain more than 4 units of alcohol. This is intended to stop the production of 500ml cans of cheap, super strength lagers and ciders.  This may catch some craft beers, wine and spirits but there are mitigating factors which the Panel will take into account such as whether a product is usually shared, its price and whether it is a premium product.  See guidance note on Illegal, immoderate or irresponsible consumption

Further Information

A series of Guidance Notes have been produced by The Portman Group’s Advisory Service to help companies comply with the new code.  Find the Guidance Notes HERE

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.