The Grocer; By 27 March 2024

Sheffield City Council’s clampdown covers low & no ads on authority-owned billboards

A move by Sheffield City Council to ban adverts from booze brands for their alcohol-free products has divided industry opinion. Supporters said the initiative – which mimics a ban in place in Norway – would clamp down on suppliers using alcohol-free drinks to “circumvent” restrictions on alcohol advertising.

Critics, however, warned the “draconian” measure – if extended more broadly across the UK – could curb the growth of low & no-alcohol drinks, the consumption of which helped to reduce alcohol-related harm, they claimed. 

The ban – agreed at a Sheffield City Council finance committee meeting earlier this month – prevents “low/zero alcohol drinks from brands synonymous with alcohol” from being promoted on authority owned billboards. It also covers the likes of junk food, vaping, airlines and airports and fossil fuels.

The clampdown, which also applies to the council’s online presence, would “set a tone” that would “gently encourage others to follow”, claimed Greg Fell, Sheffield’s public health director. It could also help prevent “alibi marketing”, through which suppliers use 0.0% products to subtly promote their flagship alcoholic drinks, said Chris Hannaway, co-founder of booze-free beer brand Infinite Session. “Where alcohol adverts have been banned, it’s appropriate that their iconography should be too,” he said. “It’s clear that anything else is just circumventing the rules.” He added: “I’m no prohibitionist and do welcome investment into the category, but when that investment is ultimately being used to avoid rules, or to tick a corporate social responsibility box, that’s not right.”

However, the Portman Group said it was “disappointing and counter-productive” to see low & no-alcohol products included in the ban. “These products are a vital tool in helping people moderate their drinking and reducing wider alcohol harms such as binge drinking and drink driving,” said the organisation’s CEO Matt Lambert. He added the measures were “unnecessary and draconian”, and cautioned against other local authorities following suit.

Laura Willoughby, co-founder of mindful drinking movement and low & no retailer Club Soda said advertising for alcohol-free drinks helped to “normalise choices to drink less or not at all”. “Big brand extensions have the budget to market and promote alcohol-free so that it feels normal,” she said. “I am very pleased this does not apply to dedicated alcohol-free brands – that would be a travesty.”

Sheffield’s clampdown comes as new, UK-wide rules governing the advertising of alcohol-free drinks are set come into effect from May. The updated regulations will allow ads for low-alcohol products as billboards and posters, except in locations where 25% or more of the audience is typically children.

Original message

Post Navigation