The Portman Group – supported by AB InBev, Carlsberg UK, Diageo, Heineken UK and others – is a drinks industry-funded vehicle to promote social responsibility regarding alcohol.
In September last year, UK potato chip manufacturer Burts Chips teamed up with drinks giant Diageo GB to launch a Guinness flavored and branded variant. The chips took Guinness flavor specialists around six months to develop and do not contain any alcohol.
A consumer complaint filed to the Portman Group claimed that the potato chips had “very great appeal to children and young people” particularly as the product was marketed alongside other potato chips.
“The marketing in this physical area cannot discriminate the viewing audience into any specific appropriate section therefore children and young people are targeted by default, irrespective of their consumption of the product,” the complainant said.
However, the Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel ruled against the complaint and said the product was not in breach of any part of its alcohol marketing code.
It said Diageo GB had chosen its partnership carefully; selecting a high-end ‘artisan snack’ that targets consumers above 40 years old.
It added that there was nothing on the packaging itself which led Burt’s chips to have a particular appeal to under-18s.
Henry Ashworth, CEO of the Portman Group, said: “Alcohol producers must be rigorous in ensuring their product marketing, or any joint marketing venture, does not appeal to under-18s. In this case, Diageo GB’s approach was not found in breach.”
Due diligence exercised, says Diageo GB
Diageo GB defended its work with Burts Chips stating it “exercised due diligence” before striking the partnership. The drinks major said the chip maker sat at the premium hand-cooked, more mature end of the market.
It said the snack player’s target group was aged in their 30-40s and presented market research data compiled by TGI that showed the average age of Burts Chips consumers to be 42 years old.