Portman Group forces Hardcore to change packaging and slogans

Drinks industry self-regulatory body the Portman Group has ordered Halewood International to repackage its Hardcore cider-based drink, because it says existing packaging over-emphasises the drink’s alcohol strength and is sexually suggestive. Liverpool-based Halewood will not have to change the product’s name.

Eric Appleby, chief executive of lobby group Alcohol Concern, which complained about Hardcore, has attacked the ruling. He says: “This is the second time that Halewood, which is a signatory to the Portman Code, has flouted that code.” He adds that the self-regulatory system “has no teeth” and a truly independent regulator is needed.

The Portman Group’s independent panel ruled that phrases such as “very strong liquid”, “triple X” and “ultimate kick” focused on Hardcore’s 8.4 per cent alcoholic strength, while the Hardcore name, along with phrases such as “for adult use only”, suggested sexual prowess.

But Halewood marketing director Bob Rishworth says: “The name also has other meanings – hardcore music, for instance – and it refers to the fact that the drink is made from apples.” The company has been told that it can keep the name if the other offending phrases are removed. New packaging should be on the market by January.

The Portman Group has also ruled against Logan Original Hemp Vodka, produced by Drinks Merchants, and Cannabis Vodka, produced by L’Or Special Drinks, because both refer directly to an illegal drug. Drinks Merchants is changing its packaging, but L’Or, a Czech company, has failed to respond. The Portman Group has ordered UK retailers not to stock the product.

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