The Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) upheld more than double the amount of complaints in 2023 compared with the previous year, with products subject to upheld complaints most commonly found to have breached the Code for having a particular appeal to under-18s.

This year 13 complaints were upheld and four not upheld, compared with five complaints which were upheld in 2022 and 16 not upheld.

However, the overall number of complaints received was down from 60 in 2022 to 42 in 2023.

There was a rise in upheld complaints this year concerning alcohol products found in breach of Code Rule 3.2 (h) – which requires that a drink’s naming, packaging and any promotional material or activity does not, in any direct or indirect way, have a particular appeal to under-18s.

Nearly half of the cases considered by the ICP this year were upheld under this rule, compared with three in 2022. Examples in 2023 include Carbon Crush IPA which featured wrap around comic book cartoons and Tiny Rebel’s ‘PRIMED’ beer which employed the same font, colour, flavour and style as the hydration soft drink popular with children.

This year there were also five complaints upheld under Code rule 3.2(f) which states that a drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness. Five complaints were also upheld under Code rule 3.2(j) which states alcohol products should not suggest they have therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood or behaviour.

Three complaints were upheld under Code rule 3.2(b) which states that alcohol products should not suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour, with two cases upheld for linking directly to guns (Cosa Nostra and AU Vodka Gold Gang Money Gun). Three complaints were also upheld under Code rule 3.3 which states a drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence.

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group said: “While we have seen a significant rise in upheld complaints this year, it is reassuring as the alcohol industry’s self-regulator to see robust decisions being made by the Panel and irresponsible and inappropriate products being removed from the market as a result, in turn driving industry change and protecting consumers.

“It is encouraging that for all of the cases upheld for having a particular appeal to under-18s, the producers in question took immediate action to remove the products from the market following the decisions of the Panel, demonstrating the efficiency of the self-regulatory model and the industry’s commitment to improving standards and marketing responsibly.

“Our primary purpose is to protect consumers from harm, particularly those who may be vulnerable, so a fundamental priority is protecting those who are under-18, and as such we have bolstered our guidance and amended our Code this year to provide even further clarity to producers.

“I would encourage all producers who are unsure of the requirements under the Code to contact the Portman Group’s free and confidential Advisory Service.”