Guidance on hard seltzers, CBD products marks 25th anniversary of Portman Group’s Code

25th anniversary of Portman Group’s Code
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The Portman Group, the self-regulator of alcohol industry, has published new guidance for hard seltzers and Cannabidiol (CBD) this year, as it celebrated 25 years of its Code of Practice that holds the industry the highest ethical standards.

The trade body said responsible marketing is of vital importance to these products to ensure continued category growth and innovation.

“These products represent a growing category and are often promoted as a health-conscious choice in other countries, but under UK law and the Portman Group’s Code of Practice, this descriptor can create problems,” Matt Lambert, Portman Group chief executive, said.

“The guidance aims to help producers navigate the responsible marketing standards in the UK and ensure new products are launched and marketed responsibly.”

In a new report, ‘25 Years of Responsible Alcohol Regulation: A spotlight on 2021’, the Portman Group has highlighted how it has developed new guidance specifically for hard seltzers – ready-to-drink alcohol products based on flavoured mineral water – and alcoholic drinks containing CBD after a 10 per cent increase in producers requesting advice in those specific categories.

Currently celebrating its 25th year, the Portman Group’s Code outlines key rules that must be followed in relation to the naming, packaging, and promotion of alcoholic drinks and works in tandem with the rules set out by other regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority and Ofcom. It ensures that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not appeal particularly to those who are vulnerable.

The new guidance, included within the Naming and Packaging Code, states that alcohol products must not suggest that they have therapeutic qualities, can enhance physical or mental capabilities or change mood or behaviour.

Of particular relevance to hard seltzers, it is a fundamental requirement of the Code that a product’s alcoholic nature is communicated with absolute clarity and it’s therefore recommended that alcohol by volume (ABV) and references to ‘alcohol’ or the word ‘alcoholic’ is included on the front of the packaging as best practice and to reduce the risk of consumer confusion.

And while the Code recognises that CBD is not the same as cannabis, words and images associated with recreational cannabis need to be avoided to prevent an association with illicit drugs. It’s also noted that the law on the use of CBD in food and drink products is complex and producers are advised to seek legal advice before launching to market.

The Portman Group, which has over 130 Code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies, also operates a Code of Practice on Alcohol Sponsorship.