The Portman Group makes a scapegoat of small drinks companies and is biased towards its larger manufacturer members, according to two producers found in breach of the industry’s code.
Hot Shotz and Absinthe, made by Pioneer International Drinks, and two vodka brands produced by the Rocket Fuel Drinks Company, have had complaints against them upheld by the Portman Group’s independent complaints panel.
The panel found several flavours in the Hot Shotz range, such as Love Juice and Stiff One, in breach of the code, which says products must not be linked to sexual success.
Ken Wanless, the director of Pioneer, said the drinks were designed to be a bit of fun. “Who in their right minds would think they are going to get sex on the beach from a test tube?”
Wanless also objected to the group’s policy of only regulating pre-packaged drinks and being powerless to prevent bars from mixing cocktails called Sex on the Beach. “The spirits used to make these cocktails usually originate from the Portman Group’s key members, which tend to be the big drinks manufacturers,” said Wanless.
Wanless feared the ruling would cause Pioneer to go out of business and said he was currently in talks with the OFT.
The Rocket Fuel Drinks Company, which had rulings against the term ‘rocket fuel’ upheld, claimed the panel was biased towards larger companies. “The Portman Group is essentially a private club which now, effectively, seeks to restrict the sales of our product in the UK free market - based simply on the deliberations of its independent complaints panel,”
David Poley, the Portman Group’s director of good practice, said: “While there is a discrepancy between pre-packaged drinks and those mixed in bars, manufacturers shouldn’t be lowering their standards in this way.”
He said the group was always willing to advise suppliers before products hit the market.
Sonya Hook