Portman plans closer watch on brands

20 June, 2007

The Portman Group is to actively monitor drinks brands to make sure they comply with its code on packaging and marketing.

The move marks a change of tack for the drinks industry funded body, which currently relies on external complaints.

Chief executive David Poley revealed the plans at a House of Commons meeting of all-parliamentary drinks groups on June 19, called to discuss the Portman’s fourth code of practice.

Speaking to OLN after the meeting, Poley said: “I think it’s good practice to be proactive and ensure that there’s widespread compliance within the code rather than simply relying on complaints.”

He added: “The number of complaints under the code is fairly low. That might be because the industry is behaving itself and is complying, but in order to confirm that, some sort of monitoring programme is necessary.”

The plans are under discussion at the moment and no timescale has been revealed.

The Portman Group’s fourth code bans the phrases shooter and slammer from drinks packaging and marketing and says drinks producers should not use any wording or imagery that encourages rapid drinking. It has advised drinks companies to re-brand products in time for the code’s implementation on Jan 1 2008.

Poley said he hoped drinks producers “will recognise the code is in their interests and will do what they need to do to abide by the code”.

He added: “For most product sectors the freedom to market products is a right, in the case of alcohol it’s a privilege. Like all privileges, if you stop being responsible, it will get taken away.”

At the Commons meeting, Drinkaware Trust interim chief executive Kevin Byrne said the body has raised £2.7 million in drinks industry funding but that it would like a “significant uplift” in support from retailers. Currently, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Waitrose support the Trust, which split from the Portman Group last year and aims to educate the public on the effects of drinking.

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