Pernod slams ‘sledgehammer’ ruling16th July, 2014 by Gabriel Savage
Pernod Ricard has hit out at a decision by the Portman Group that the label of its Pernod brand is in breach of UK alcohol marketing rules.
The organisation, whose role is to police the responsible sale and promotion of alcoholic drinks, found that the French aniseed-based spirit was guilty of “failing to communicate its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity.”
According to a ruling by the Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel (ICP), although the abv appears on the brand’s front label, “the colour of the text meant the statement did not stand out and was therefore not legible.”
In addition, the panel ruled that while the words “spirit” and “distillation” did feature on the product’s back label, they appeared “within a lyrical description rather than a clear explanation of the nature of the product, and again were not easily legible.”
The Portman Group also argued that the French phrase “spiriteux anise” was “insufficiently clear for UK consumers”. It concluded that Pernod “was relying too much on its brand name to communicate the alcoholic nature of the product”, thereby falling foul again of rules on clarity.
Commenting on the decision, ICP secretary Henry Ashworth said: “It is important that the alcoholic nature of a product is communicated with absolute clarity for consumers and this ruling shows that producers cannot rely on the brand name to convey this, but must consider all aspects of the label to ensure this is being achieved. We welcome the company’s commitment to amend the packaging to comply with the Code.”
However, despite Pernod agreeing to make changes in line with this ruling, the Portman Group has issued a Retailer Alert Bulletin (RAB) ordering merchants not to order Pernod stock with this particular packaging after 12 September 2014.
In response to this action, Denis O’Flynn, managing director of Pernod Ricard UK, said: “Pernod Ricard UK does not share the Independent Complaints Panel’s (ICP) view that the abv as stated on the front label is ‘not easily legible’.”
Confirming that steps had already been taken to ensure the brand can continue to remain on sale in the UK, he said: ”We do accept that we must comply with the findings of the ICP and therefore we have already given instruction to the producers in France to modify the label in accordance with the ICP wishes.
“Pernod Ricard UK has shared the revised label with the Portman Group who confirmed the new label is in compliance with the code. This modification will be carried out as soon as is practical and Pernod Ricard UK has communicated this to the Portman Group.”
As a result of this remedial action by the group, O’Flynn remarked: “Pernod Ricard UK is therefore very disappointed with the issuing of the Retailer Alert Bulletin which, in our view is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
The Pernod brand came to the attention of the ICP as a result of work carried out by independent consultants Campden BRI, who have been commissioned by the Portman Group to conduct an audit of 500 alcoholic drinks on the shelves of UK retailers.