AlcoholFood and DrinkNews

Over 80% of Alcohol Product Complaints Concern Particular Appeal to Under-18s

A new alcohol sector report finds that 85% of formal complaints considered by the Independent Complaints Panel (Panel) were regarding whether alcohol packaging and marketing had particular appeal to under-18s, as awareness grows for the harms of underage drinking.

The new report from the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator – reveals that the industry Panel reviewed more complaints about products appealing to under 18s in 2022 than any other category. However, the majority (76%) of complaints were not upheld, indicating a strong alignment between producers in the sector and the Code of Practice.

This comes as the report reveals that drinks producers were more likely to seek advice and guidance from the Portman Group’s Advisory Service under the Code rule on particular appeal to under-18s [29%] than any other category. This was followed by advice on immoderate consumption [20%] and bravado [15%], demonstrating increased awareness and proactivity from producers to ensure responsible marketing and labelling practices.

This increase in complaints coincides with a fall in underage drinking worldwide, again highlighting the increased awareness and action from producers to ensure that alcohol marketing does not have a particular appeal to people under the age of 18.

Complaints which raise concerns that alcohol marketing may have particular appeal to under-18s are considered under the Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of alcoholic drinks. Complaints in the category this year included products which used shimmering liquid and interactive elements such as lights and illustrations, which meant the overall impression of the packaging had a particular appeal to under-18s.

This year, the Panel upheld a complaint under the Code of Practice on Alcohol Sponsorship. A complaint against premium spirits brand, Jatt Life’s sponsorship of the luxury driving event was upheld under a number of Code rules including using images of those who were, or looked as if they were, under 25.

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 18’s 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 report also finds that the Portman Group did not issue any Retailer Alert Bulletins this year. All producers whose products were upheld under the Code chose to work with the Advisory Service to revise any products in question or voluntarily removed the products from market, without the requirement for stronger enforcement action.