Running with Sceptres – Portman Group Ruling
Today the Portman Group announced that it has upheld a single complaint against one of Lost and Grounded’s core beers, Running with Sceptres India Pale Lager. It has been deemed to breach rule 3.2(h) of the code: A drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not have a particular appeal to under-18s. The Bristol-based brewery disagrees with the ruling and has made the decision to leave the branding unchanged on the product.
In a statement made following the ruling, company Co-Founder Annie Clements said:
“Running with Sceptres is our second-highest selling product, and it has taken many years of hard work to gain its current popularity. The branding is no different to the multitude of other brands on the market that utilise an artistic style. We operate as a responsible business and would never market products to appeal to under-18s. This product is integral to our brand story, and a change to its branding would be costly, and to do this based on a single complaint is simply not practical and has the potential to cause significant financial damage to our small, independent business.”
In its submissions to the Portman Group the brewery highlighted numerous factors indicating why it believes the ruling is incorrect. The product has been on the market for over three years, has been featured in widely known publications such as BBC Music Magazine and The London Economic, and in 2019 was featured on BBC Saturday Kitchen Live. Despite significant exposure the product has never previously received a complaint.
Clements continued by saying: “We feel this decision by the Portman Group is incorrect and does not consider the nature of today’s beer market. This is a product sold at a premium price point, in a 440ml can, in the beer section of stores. The product is clearly identified as an ‘India Pale Lager’ on the front of the can.”
Regarding this ruling, James Calder, Chief Executive of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) stated: “Self-regulation of the industry is important and we as producers have responsibilities. But the Portman Group Code and the Independent Panel need to understand the need for proportionate regulation based on the likelihood of a product doing actual harm.”
Calder continued: “We’d like to see the Portman Group move to a system where, like other regulators, numerous complaints are needed to trigger an investigation. This ruling will cause significant damage to a brewery with good ethics and business at its core.”
Member of Parliament for Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy also offered her support: “It’s hugely unfair that Lost and Grounded, a Living Wage brewery based in my constituency, can be targeted in such a way, and see one of their most popular products removed from stores as a result of a single complaint. Alcohol companies, of course, have a responsibility to sensibly market their products, but this ruling is the result of a misapplication of the rules through a flawed process. I hope that the Portman Group revises its decision and allows Lost and Grounded to continue selling this beer to its signatories.”
The company has advised that this ruling will most likely result in the product being delisted from Waitrose stores, and that it is working closely with the retailer to minimise the commercial impact of this ruling. Lost and Grounded also hopes that its decision with regards to this ruling can be a catalyst for change in the way the Portman Group applies its legislation, in a beer market that looks very different to when the group was established in 1989. The full ruling can be found on the Portman Group website.