The consultation is set to launch this spring, and will be the fifth time the alcohol watchdog has reviewed its Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks since it was first introduced in 1996.
The regulator is seeking out the views of a wide range of producers, retailers, public health professionals, charities and all other interested parties.
It is thought the consultation will focus on key areas that are likely to include: redefining “immoderate consumption”, strengthening the code to prohibit direct or indirect links with alcohol and any illegal activity, and introducing new guidelines addressing issues of “serious and widespread offence”, such as sexism in marketing.
An ongoing issue
The issue of sexist branding in beer has been a contentious topic in recent months. In November 2017, Wild Card’s head brewer Jaega Wise called for beers with pump clips that objectify women to be banned from entering beer festival competitions, while Manchester’s Cloudwater Brew Co came under fire in January for a collaboration with an American brewery with a history of sexist branding.
Last month, it was revealed that the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) is planning to introduce a marketing code of practice for its members to ensure responsible marketing.
Commenting on the forthcoming review, the Portman Group’s chief executive John Timothy said: “Alcohol producers are serious about their leadership role in tackling misuse and ensuring that their products are marketed responsibly."
Evolving for the future
He added: “We know that self-regulation works, driving up standards and holding producers to account – but to make sure it continues to do so the code must evolve with new issues and challenges.
“This is our fifth review of the code and we need to make sure it remains fit for the future,” he continued. “That means ensuring it continues to be responsive to changes in the marketing landscape, while also challenging producers to achieve the highest standards of social responsibility.
“We will be engaging widely to secure a range of views and would encourage anyone with an interest in alcohol and responsible marketing to get in touch.”
In December 2017, Welsh brewery Tiny Rebel criticised the Portman Group over a ruling that the designs of its Cwtch cans could encourage immoderate consumption of alcohol.
The brewery said that the ruling had cost “five months of work, nearly £30,000 in costs, and a fair bit of stress”.