Drinks firms upset after alcopops ruling

The scrapping or redesigning of a number of alcopops, ordered this week, has left drinks manufacturers in confusion, and complaining that it’s impossible to ensure they can launch drinks meeting the criteria.

Industry watchdog The Portman Group wants a crackdown on designs which may appeal to under-18s. This week, five products were ordered off the shelves, with eight others told they must either alter names or packaging.

Intercontinental Brand’s Super Milch changed its brand name and labelling after using The Portman Group’s pre-vetting service.

But, as The Portman Group makes clear, any complaints are dealt with separately by an independent panel. The panel judged that labelling should be changed, but it cannot say what the label can safely be changed to, and has referred Intercontinental back to the pre-vetting service.

Intercontinental joint managing director Paul Burton says: “We accept pre-launch advice is non-binding, but surely it is only ideal if it is capable of clearing products against an accepted code.”

He fears that if the bottles are redesigned, a further complaint could again cause a ruling for more changes. “It’s a little galling to say the least,” says Burton.

Allied Domecq, a founder member of The Portman Group, also used the pre-vetting service before launching spirit mixer Barking Frog. But this week the bottle design, by Storyboard, was ordered off the shelves, upholding complaints that its image of a tree frog was unsuitable.

An Allied spokesman claims the decision to drop the product had already been made. “We accept that the pre-vetting mechanism is no guarantee [the independent panel] will not rule against it,” he says.

No one at The Portman Group was available to comment.

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