Special Brew to be removed from sale after complaint upheld

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An industry crackdown on super strength alcohol stepped up a gear today after the Portman Group announced that two drinks suppliers had been found to have been encouraging binge drinking.

The self-regulatory body announced that its Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) had found in favour of complaints from the homelessness charity Thames Reach, which pointed the finger at 9% ABV cans of Kestrel Super, Carlsberg Special Brew, and Skol Super.

The decision means supermarkets, off-licences, convenience stores and other alcohol retailers will be told not to place orders for any of the 500ml cans of the products after 31 March.

The ICP rejected a defence by Kestrel’s owner, Brookfield Drinks, which pointed out its package design included the phrase ”sharing can” in bold letters on the front and back of the can, along with their claim that the majority of its consumers shared the contents because of this message.

But the panel said that the product in its current 500ml can contained 4.5 units, which is, respectively, 0.5 and 1.5 units more than men’s and women’s recommended daily guidelines. Because the container type was not resealable it was reasonable to expect that the contents would be consumed by one person, in one session.

A similar claim against the other products was also upheld.

The move comes after most of the leading supermarkets and some suppliers signed a voluntary pledge to remove similar cans from sale, under the Responsibility Deal. Suppliers including Carlsberg, which produces Special Brew and Skol Super, had promised to remove high ABV beverages from sale this year in the 500ml format.

‘‘It is vital that a product’s packaging does not in any way encourage immoderate consumption and we advise all producers to seek advice from the Portman Group if they are in any doubt,” said Portman Group chief executive, Henry Ashworth.

He pointed to research carried out by YouGov, commissioned on behalf of the panel, which found that 80% of consumers expected the contents of a 500ml 9% abv can to be consumed by one person in one session, with only 2% saying that the cans could be easily resealed.

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