The Portman Group’s latest Code regulating the promotion and packaging of alcoholic drinks sold or marketed in the UK comes into effect in May 2013 – giving producers some time to prepare for change.  The Code aims to support creative marketing whilst at the same time protecting the public, particularly children and has been strengthened in the following key areas:

Alcoholic strength

The current Code states that packaging should not give higher alcoholic strength undue emphasis.  Under the revised Code, if a product has lower alcoholic strength than the average similar beverage, this may be emphasised proportionately.  This supports the promotion of new lower alcohol ranges and the producers’ pledge to remove 1 billion units of alcohol from the market.

Inappropriate marketing

  • The current Code prohibits reference to sexual success in alcohol promotion and packaging.  The revised code widens this to prohibit direct or indirect associations with sexual activity, disallowing any reference to sexual activity.
  • The new Code also prohibits claims that alcohol has therapeutic or relaxing qualities – a direct link in promotions between consuming alcohol and relaxation will be unacceptable.
  • Producers are barred from using images of under 25s (or those who look under 25) in promotions unless these are used in an incidental rather than a significant role.  Promotions should not show under 25s drinking.


The revised Code will apply to all naming, packaging, marketing and promotion of alcohol by drinks producers for sale or consumption in the UK which is not otherwise subject to regulation by the Advertising Standards Authority or Ofcom.  Significantly, the Code also now applies to PR activity.

Further Information

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.  It first introduced a Code of Practice for the Responsible Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks in 1996.

The Group’s Advisory Service has produced a series of Guidance notes to help companies comply with the new code.  These can be downloaded at:
Guidance on using images of under 25s and Communication of Alcoholic Strength

A Guide to the Fifth Edition of the Code

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.