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DB Reader: The Porn Star Martini ruling proves it’s time for an industry shake up

Earlier this week The Portman Group forced Marks & Spencer to change the name of an RTD cocktail because of its saucy name. Steve Perez, founder and chairman of Global Brands, says the industry needs a shake up.

Marks & Spencer has been ordered by the Portman Group to change the name of its canned Porn Star Martini, after a complaint to the UK watchdog group stated that, if sales were allowed to continue, it would “open the floodgates” to other suggestive cocktails names.

Marks & Spencer shouldn’t be the scapegoat here. It’s difficult to see this as a step forward for the industry as a whole, while the cocktail name, and others in question, are still very commonly used in the on trade.

Some would argue that it’s fine to use riskier cocktail names in places intended for adults such as bars and late-night venues, but the reason behind the ruling is due to a breach of code linking alcohol to sexual activity.

Surely as manufacturers, producers and retailers we need to make our own decisions on whether or not we should accept responsibility industry-wide – depending on each brand’s own position in the market. Judging by comments on Twitter, the public think this is petty – maybe if it was one of the discounters retailing it, it might be a different matter.

In 2018, we launched a canned cocktail under our All Shook Up brand, but we chose the name Passion Fruit Martini – taking into careful consideration the intended market for the product and our position. We spent months considering this when developing All Shook Up and deliberately avoided the usual name.

Our alternative, Passion Fruit Martini, is more descriptive, plays on the ingredients and avoids any unnecessary connotations. It makes it more consumer-friendly and avoids getting into any debate about the nature of the name.

We should also be working with customers to advise them of guidelines, such as the Portman Group’s, to ensure there’s no danger of a breach. We can use our product knowledge – linking ingredients and flavour profiles to create unique names instead that encourage customers to sample something new.

The Portman Group’s code of conduct should reflect the real world, otherwise it’s at risk of being viewed as an arm of the nanny state.

The bigger concern right now for consumers is not the names of these low ABV cocktails, but the unfair addition tax they will have to pay, with the Government’s proposed changes to rules on low strength cocktails making them more expensive, while leaving high strength imported drinks alone.

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