High-strength beers fall foul of Portman Group

By Mike Berry

- Last updated on GMT

Carlsberg Special Brew was one of the brands found to have breached alcohol marketing rules
Carlsberg Special Brew was one of the brands found to have breached alcohol marketing rules

Related tags Portman group Beer The portman group

The Portman Group has ruled that two producers of high-strength beer have breached alcohol responsibility rules.

The packaging of 500ml cans of Kestrel Super Premium Lager (9% ABV), produced by Brookfield Drinks, Carlsberg Special Brew (9%) and the Carlsberg-brewed Skol Super (9%) have all been found to encourage immoderate consumption after a ruling by the group’s Independent Complaints Panel.

The ICP considered the products following formal complaints from the homelessness charity Thames Reach.


The panel observed that a 500ml can of each of the beers contains 4.5 units of alcohol – 0.5 and 1.5 units more than men’s and women’s recommended lower risk daily guidelines respectively. Noting the assumption that the quality of the product would degrade quickly once the can was opened, the panel judged that it would be reasonable to expect that the contents would be consumed by one person in one session.

Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, Henry Ashworth said: ‘‘It is important that a can’s packaging does not encourage immoderate consumption and we advise producers to seek advice from the Portman Group if they are in any doubt.”

The Portman Group has issued Retailer Alert Bulletins (RAB) for all three products, instructing supermarkets, off-licences, convenience stores and other alcohol retailers not to place orders for the 500ml cans after 31 March 2015.

Carlsberg response:

Bruce Ray, corporate affairs director at Carlsberg UK, said: "Carlsberg UK is supportive of the leadership the Portman Group shows in promoting responsible drinking, preventing alcohol misuse and presenting a balanced view of alcohol-related issues.

"In an effort to demonstrate our own commitment and leadership on responsible drinking, in December last year, we voluntarily signed up to the Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal Packaging Pledge to not sell any carbonated product containing more than four units of alcohol in a single-serve can. This commitment, first made to government in July 2014, is to implement this across our portfolio during 2015.

“We are surprised and disappointed by the Independent Complaints Panel’s ruling against these two specific products, which we believe breach neither the letter, nor spirit, of the Code, nor encourage irresponsible or immoderate consumption.

“As a responsible brewer, we already clearly communicate unit information on our packaging in order to give consumers the information they need to make informed decisions about their drinking behaviour.”

Willy’s Cider

Separately, the panel ruled that Willy’s Cider, produced by Chase Distillery, does not breach alcohol marketing rules on sexual activity or on appealing to children.

In response to the complaint, Chase Distillery explained that ‘Willy’s’ referred to its founder, William Chase, and that the ‘Wonky Barn’ cartoon label detail was a reference to the barn at the founder’s home, where the Cider was originally produced.

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