Lost and Grounded recruits support from SIBA and MP against Portman Group ruling

Bristol-based brewer Lost and Grounded has hit back against a Portman Group ruling that deems one of its most popular beers to be “particularly appealing to children”.

The brewer said it disagrees with the ruling and has made the decision not to change the product. It has also recruited support from its local MP and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

The Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel was asked to assess the brewer’s Running with Sceptres India Pale Lager, along with another beer from the brewer, Keller Pils. The complaint against Running with Sceptres was upheld while the one against the second beer wasn’t.

The complainant expressed concern that both products were likely to appeal to children because of the cartoon-style drawings on the can, which, the complainant said, made associations to the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, and, in the case of Keller Pils, the children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows.

Chair of the Panel, Jenny Watson, said: “Lost and Grounded created an engaging can [for Running with Sceptres], but unfortunately the Panel felt that the prominence of the cartoon animals made it particularly appealing to children. We understand that producers want to use creative illustrators and we would encourage all producers to make full use of the Portman Group’s free advisory service before launching a product.”

Lost and Founded has said it disagrees with the ruling and has decided not to change the product.

Lost and Founded’s co-founder, Annie Clements, said: “Running with Sceptres is our second-highest selling products, 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.

“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 44cl can, in the beer section of stores. The product is clearly identified as an ‘India Pale Lager’ on the front of the can.”

James Calder, chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), said: “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.

“We would 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 is hugely unfair that Lost and Grounded, a Living Wage brewery based in my constituency, can be targeted in such a way, and se 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.”

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