I've just written the response.
20 Conduit Street
London W1S 2XW
By Post, Email
and Open letter published on Dave’s Blog
and Open letter published on Dave’s Blog
05 December 2011
COMPLAINT AGAINST VITESSE NOIR
We note your letter dated 2 December 2011 regarding a complaint from a member of the public. We note your nine member companies, who between them represent a major contributor to the alcohol market. We recognise the need for pacification of the unreasonable pressure put on our industry by neo-prohibitionists who fail to recognise that the vast majority of drinkers are responsible and moderate. We note that the clever marketing campaigns conducted by your member companies, with their benefit of major marketing budgets, often subtly tread a fine line of your code. We note that major lager brands for instance often sponsor sport implying that by drinking that product you automatically become a sportier person. Additionally, adverts on the T.V. that suggest by drinking a product one’s party will be wild and raunchy must surely sail close to The Portman Group’s code of conduct.
We note that the majority of the volume of the products your members companies make are easy drinking, manufactured to a budget and a quality that is unlikely to challenge the taste buds of the drinker and sold in a manner that is designed to maximise volumes of sales. We respect this position and understand that this is what the majority of the law abiding drinking public is happy with.
We note that The Portman Group has no jurisdiction over us and is unlikely to be able to take action over this particular product, namely Vitesse Noir, as it is predominantly sold direct by us to a very small specialist market. The product is highly unlikely to be sold through supermarkets, which is where the majority of risk to public health would be.
We are a very small company. Our products are designed very much for a small, niche, and discerning customer base. To enable us to get to our target market we require a strong marketing message and it is disappointing that an organisation which is funded by major alcohol producers is seeking to interfere with real innovation and enterprising commerce. In the current economic environment it is the small producers like Hardknott who are likely to lead an economic recovery. Seeking to inhibit our success is inappropriate and unreasonable.
This particular product is inspired by an American Craft Beer the likes of which is very rare in the
. It is part
of a Craft Beer movement in the UK which is showing drinkers that a few well
chosen drinks at a higher price is more responsible than looking for the lowest
cost deal and drinking it in large quantities. It is highly flavoured and
priced as a premium product and as such is recommended by us to be consumed only
as a digestif. If the label is read in context it is clear that this is the
case, and furthermore the label carries a warning, which the complaint has
chosen to ignore. UK
It appears that it is the word “tonic” which is being picked out as the offending word. It is worth pointing out that pre-packaged “Gin and Tonic” is now a regular product in many supermarkets and is manufactured by at least one of your members. Additionally, several of your members regularly feature adverts in mass media citing gin and tonic as a refreshing pick-me-up.
We believe the risk to the general public of the innocent and obviously tongue in cheek wording on the labels of our bottles is insignificant. Indeed, we expect that our customer base will have all the intelligence needed to control their own health and wellbeing and are unlikely to believe that our little quip has any basis in truth. We believe our customers are intelligent and discerning and we market as such.
The product is manufactured in very small batches and we are unlikely to ever reach the manufacturing capacity that would cause this product to represent a public health risk.
We believe that for small artisan producers like ourselves a different approach to marketing is required. We will therefore wish to be allowed to progress with our business without interference from an organisation who is funded by major alcohol producers.
I note that this is not the first time The Portman Group has antagonised producers in the Craft Beer Sector. Hardknott recognises the importance of a regulatory body within the industry to prevent inappropriate Government legislation hindering the lawful and responsible actions of all of our industry. However, it is clear to me that The Portman Group is unable to consider the needs of the small artisan producer. Should a representative of small producers be required then we would be happy to help and thereby avoid further uncomfortable confrontations.
Brewer, Doer, Force Majeure.