25 Years of Responsible Alcohol Regulation and Portman Group in 2021

Jan 12th '22

2021 was a significant year for the Portman Group and the Independent Complaints Panel. The Portman Group celebrated 25 years of the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks, during which the self-regulatory framework has proven to consistently deliver efficient regulation and protect under-18s and vulnerable consumers from irresponsible alcohol marketing.


The culmination of the Portman Group celebrations was the release of the report, 25 Years of Responsible Alcohol Regulation: a Spotlight on 2021. It delves into the Portman Group’s work as a regulator for the past year and reflects on the history of 25 years of the Code.


25 years of the Code

The Code has worked effectively, responsively, and inexpensively. Since the Code was first published in 1996:



Many hundreds of additional products have been helped to adhere to the Code before appearing on shelves. This has been thanks to the Portman Group free Advisory service and training team.


There have been five updates to the Code over 25 years, responding to changes in public attitudes and expanding its reach. An extensive public consultation occurs when the Portman Group revise the Code. In creating the sixth and most recent update of the Code in 2019, they took advice from a range of organisations including: Public Health England, the Home Office, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), Alcohol Concern, British Beer and Pubs Association, Scotch Whiskey Association, Campaign for Real Ale, and the Society of Independent Brewers.


This has all occurred without recourse to Government or Parliamentary time, and these regular updates ensure that regulation remains effective and efficient. 14 of the leading members of the industry fund the model for all to be protected and at no cost to the public purse.


A spotlight on 2021



Again in 2021, the Advisory Service was predominantly used by non-member companies showing the widespread understanding of the importance of adhering to the Code and the industry best practice. This is reassuring, and reinforces the commitment of members who are leading the industry in ensuring that the sector is responsible. Their support ensures that the Advisory Service is funded to benefit the whole of the sector, and often those who are the smallest producers.



In 2021, 16 rulings were made by the Independent Complaints Panel (Panel).



Of these decisions, 43% were considered under Code rule 3.1 (communication of alcoholic nature with absolute clarity). While considered, only a quarter of these complaints were upheld. The Panel also made three precedent setting decisions under the Code rule 3.3 (serious or widespread offence) regarding the derogatory depiction of women, mental health and the use of profanity.


The year saw a significant number of complaints under the particular appeal to under-18s rule, reflecting the fact that the Portman Group’s primary purpose as a regulator has fundamentally been the same for 25 years; to protect consumers, particularly those who are under-18. The cases that the Panel have considered this year continue to demonstrate why work remains pertinent and necessary. This was also the most popular Code rule to seek advice on how to ensure that the product marketing was compliant with 16% of cases considered under this rule.


And finally, the Portman Group only issued one Retail Alert Bulletin in 2021 for Colorado High. The majority of producers all worked voluntarily with the Advisory Service to make changes to products in the shortest timeframe possible.


Looking forward

The Portman Group look forward to another 25 years of regulating marketing for the alcohol industry. They know it is incumbent on us to continue to adapt with societal changes and expectations, and that they craft regulations that ensure that the sector is responsible, without stifling creativity. Everyday Portman Group Advisory and Training teams will be speaking with producers, helping them to embed the Codes’ rules and principles into their marketing. If you are looking for more information on the support the Portman Group can offer contact advice@portmangroup.org.uk.


To read the full report click here.


Watch: 25 Years of Responsible Alcohol Regulation video


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