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Portman Group reissues Laverstoke advice

The Portman Group has reissued a “Retailer Alert Bulletin for Laverstoke Park Farm Ale and Lager”, which asks retailers not to place orders for the products “in their current packaging after 17 May 2013.”

The group claims that products’ labels breach alcohol responsibility rules as they feature cartoon-style drawings which, the group says, have “particular appeal to young children” and are therefore “inappropriate for marketing alcoholic drinks.”

Laverstoke Park Farm, which is owned by former Formula One world champion Jody Scheckter, has always denied the Portman Group’s claims, but has now withdrawn all legal action against the Independent Complaints Panel and the Portman Group.

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, said: “Before you start marketing alcohol in the UK, you must carry out due diligence checks to ensure that your products and packaging are acceptable and responsible – this saves significant time and costs in the long run. There has been a clear ruling by an experienced High Court judge rejecting Laverstoke’s challenge to the Independent Complaints Panel’s decision, describing it as ‘devoid of merit’. The judge also recognised the reasoning of the Panel in making its decision as ‘impeccable’.

“Unlike many responsible producers, Mr Scheckter refuses to work with the Portman Group’s free Advisory Service to ensure Laverstoke’s labels comply with the rules. The Advisory Service will continue to be available to him. The Portman Group Code is supported by over 140 organisations including all the major retailers who have given their commitment to abide by the rulings of the Independent Complaints Panel. They have been requested not to place orders for the products in their current packaging after 17 May 2013.”

Scheckter has always disagreed with the claim that the labels appeal to children and has blamed the “big boys” in the industry.

When the Portman Group’s complaint first arose, Scheckter said: “No one in their right mind believes four-year-olds will drink beer because of our label. The big boys want to show they are doing something and so they’re going after the small people.

“We don’t sell anything to children. We sell expensive organic produce.“This reaction to products that have been on sale for almost five years and sold over 170,000 bottles versus a single complaint, seems excessive to say the least.

“No retailers have reported problems with under-18s attempting to buy Laverstoke ale or lager.”

Scheckter has also questioned the authority and the approach of the Portman Group. He said previously: “I have had to waste a huge amount of time and money on this whole mess and I am angry that a body with no legislative power can just come along and make arbitrary decisions that we, a small producer, are then left with the consequences of, in my opinion, ill-informed and unjustified views.”

Finally, he said that if the supermarkets did choose to delist Laverstoke Park products, he would “respect and accept their position”.

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