Pernod Ricard UK has been forced to change the label on its Pernod spirit after The Portman Group ruled consumers might not realise it was an alcoholic drink.

The supplier has agreed to modify the labelling but said the decision was “very disappointing”.

A review conducted by The Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel found the packaging of the drink – which is produced by Pernod Ricard UK’s French parent company and has been sold in the UK since the 1950s - failed to communicate clearly that it was an alcoholic drink.

“The product seems to be relying on its brand name to be recognised as an alcoholic drink,” the group said, claiming consumers not familiar with the brand might consume or serve the product without being aware of its alcoholic content.

An audit found the ‘spiritueux anise’ description, which appears only in French on the front of the pack, could appear in a more prominent position and claimed the 40% abv declaration was “not easily legible” on the front of pack. In response, it has issued a retailer alert bulletin, calling on licensees not to place orders for stocks of Pernod in the existing packaging after 12 September 2014. It noted that retailers who place orders before then should consider limiting the order to the quantity that would normally be sold by this date.

Pernod Ricard’s UK managing director Denis O’Flynn said issuing of the Retailer Alert Bulletin was “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” and it was “very disappointed” with the ruling.

He accepted that the company had to comply with the Independent Complaint’s Panel, but said it did not share the ICP’s view that the ABV on the front label was not easily legible.

Initially Pernod Ricard told The Portman Group it would be difficult to implement the changes in the “very near future” because these would need to be agreed by brand owner Pernod Ricard SA, and there was currently a large stock of bottled product and labels. However O’Flynn today confirmed the modification would be carried out as soon as practical.