Portman Group: Portman Group Launches First Industry Wide Alcohol Alternatives Guidance for Packaging and Marketing

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Today, the Portman Group launches the first industry wide and freely available Alcohol Alternatives Guidance for packaging and marketing to help producers ensure alcohol alternative products are marketed and sold responsibly to consumers. The Portman Group’s Advisory Service will now also offer free, confidential advice to producers launching products in the category and low cost training to the industry will also be available. The full guidance can be read here and the quick read here.

An ‘alcohol alternative’ drink is defined as having an ABV of 0.5% or below and may have references to the absence of alcohol on the product and in its marketing. It may also share branding with an alcoholic drink or have similar packaging.

The new principles for responsible marketing best practice stipulate that, as products aimed squarely at adults, steps should be taken to ensure that the marketing of alcohol alternatives has no particular appeal to under-18s.

Marketing which shows people driving, playing sport, or taking part in risky activities after they’ve consumed an alcohol alternative product should make it clear they have consumed the alcohol alternative, and that the intention is to show a wider range of choice for consumers.

On a precautionary best practice basis, guidance recommends that marketing does not depict, or reference in copy, an alcohol alternative being consumed during pregnancy. Those who are or may be pregnant will make their own educated choices about whether they wish to drink products at 0.0%.

The guidance also lays out five other suggestions for producers, including:

  • Making clear that the drink is at or below the threshold to be considered an alcoholic drink (0.5% ABV);
  • Not associating alcohol with social or sexual success;
  • No images of people who are, or look as if they are, under 25 years of age;
  • And the product should not cause serious or widespread offence.

The guidance comes as new YouGov research commissioned by the Portman Group found that over a third (35%) of alcohol drinkers now consider themselves an occasional or regular drinker of alcohol alternatives – rising to close to half (44%) of 18-24 year olds. Furthermore, almost a quarter (23%) of UK drinkers have seen their alcohol consumption fall as a result of low and no alcohol products.

Public Health Minister, Dame Andrea Leadsom, said:

“I welcome the publication of this marketing guidance for alcohol alternatives, and the commitment of producers to market and sell these products responsibly to adult consumers.

“I hope this guidance will support producers in increasing availability and visibility of alcohol alternatives for those consumers who want to moderate their alcohol consumption and improve their health.”

Matt Lambert, CEO, the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator, said:

“We very much welcome the endorsement provided by Department for Health and Social Care for the first industry wide and freely available alcohol alternatives guidance for packaging and marketing. As evidenced by our research, alcohol alternatives have seen a huge increase in popularity in recent years, and the Portman Group has responded by creating new marketing principles to help producers market these products responsibly.

“It is clear that consumers are gravitating to alcohol alternatives either as a moderation tool to cut down on their drinking or as part of a healthier lifestyle.

“Our new guidance aims to help producers be clear and transparent in their marketing, ensuring that information is provided to consumers when considering which products to buy.”

Notes to editors

    • A spokesperson is available for interviews upon request.
    • The Portman Group was formed in 1989. It is the alcohol industry regulator and social responsibility body. It has over 160 Code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies.
    • The Portman Group is funded by 19 member and associate member companies: Asahi UK Ltd; Aston Manor Cider; Bacardi; Beam Suntory; Brown-Forman; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Campari; C&C; Diageo GB; Edrington UK; Heineken UK; Mark Anthony Brands International; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Molson Coors Beverage Company; Pernod Ricard UK; Punch Pubs & Co; SHS Drinks; Thatchers’; and Treasury Wine Estates.
    • The Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks was first published in 1996. In 2021, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Code. The Code seeks to ensure that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not appeal particularly to those who are vulnerable. The Code has helped create an industry that works effectively within the context of a self-regulatory model, while encouraging design, innovation and creativity. This has been done in an effective, responsive and inexpensive way.
      • Effectively – over 170 products have been amended or removed from the market. Many hundreds more have been helped to adhere to the Code before appearing on shelves through the support of the Advisory Service;
      • Responsively – there have been five updates to the Code over 25 years responding to changes in public attitudes and expanding its reach; all without recourse to Government or Parliamentary time;
      • Inexpensively – the leading members of the industry are currently funding the model for all to be protected at no cost to the public purse.

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