Laverstoke Park Farm ordered to change 'childish' ale and lager labels

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer, Alcoholic beverage

Laverstoke Park Farm's Ale and Lager which the IPC has banned from sale because the packaging could appeal to under-18s
Laverstoke Park Farm's Ale and Lager which the IPC has banned from sale because the packaging could appeal to under-18s
An independent complaints panel has ordered producer Laverstoke Park Farm to change the labels on its bottles of ale and lager because it thinks the images on them could appeal to children.

Under the Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks a drink, its packaging and any promotional activity around it should not have any appeal to under-18s. 

'childish nature'

Laverstoke's organic beers, brewed under licence for the Hampshire-based farm and which have won Great Taste Awards and are endorsed by CAMRA, were put under scrutiny after a member of the public complained about the 'childish nature' of the drawn image of the farmer character Mr Laverstoke and the colours used on the label. 

In its defence, Laverstoke Park Farm, which has sold 170,000 bottles of the beers carrying the label over the last five years, said it used the same image on a range of its products, from cheeses to meat and soft drinks and it was meant to create an 'adult, joyful and honest feel to the products' as well as represent its ethical food production message. 

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group said that while its Independent Complaints Panel had understood that the beers were not intentionally setting out to appeal to under-age drinkers, they could not continue to be sold as they were. 

"Whilst a child’s drawing may be acceptable for marketing organic apple juice it is entirely inappropriate for alcoholic drinks’ labels," he said. "There are no exceptions to the rule which says that alcohol packaging must not appeal to children, regardless of where a product is being sold." 

Disappointment

As a result of the ruling, all publicans and retailers signed up to Portman's Code have been told they can no longer sell Laverstoke Park Farm's 5% abv ale and 4.5% abv lager until the labels are changed.

In response to the ruling, Laverstoke Park Farm founder Jody Scheckter called it nonsensical and a major disappointment and claimed it could mean an end to the production of the beers altogether. 

He said: "The financial impact of this decision appears to be completely immaterial to the Portman Group. They state a date from which the beer can no longer be sold with the current labelling. They do not consider for one moment how much inventory a small company may have, the economic impact of buyers not wanting to end up with stock they shouldn’t sell on the shelves and therefore not ordering the product, the potential for the ale and lager to be de-listed entirely, the cost of redesigning the label and having the entire remaining inventory re-labelled and then the associated decrease in sales when the consumer no longer recognises the brand.

"As a small company, we cannot afford to have a nationwide advertising campaign to re-launch the product so the potential for our losses is considerable and it may mean that it is no longer viable for us to produce our award winning beers. And all this from a single complaint and the Portman Group’s over reaction and inability to apply the spirit of the code." 

Laverstoke Park Farm follows Brewdog and Ramsgate Brewery who were both ordered to change the packaging for their Tokyo and Dark Conspiracy beers after they were found in breach of the Code. 

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2 comments

Portman Group are misquoting what the code says

Posted by kate,

It's not a breach of the code if labelling "could" appeal to juniors. That would be so broad that it would be insane.

Henry Ashworth says that the rule is that "alcohol packaging must not appeal to kids". It doesn't say that either. That too would be so broad as to be unworkable.

What the code actually says is that It's a breach if labelling "HAS A PARTICULAR" appeal to juniors. That's a far harder test. And just because it's a drawing done by a kid does NOT give it a particular appeal to kids. If you put Harry Potter on booze I could see their point. But just because a drawing is done by a child does NOT give it a particular appeal to kids. It appeals to anyone. And there's nothing in the code which is against that.

The Portman Group have failed to read properly and to apply properly what the code actually says. No wonder the result is bonkers.

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This is Bonkers

Posted by Hugh Caven,

I could list hundreds of labels that could be attractive to to people under 18, the top shelf of every newsagents for a start.

The safety net here is the retailer. If they are going to serve someone under age in the first place it matters not a jot what is on the label.

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