The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does not appear to be especially concerned about the potential for mentioning the mere presence of CBD in a product being a health claim.

The Portman Group has already said it considers any alcohol product that mentions it contains CBD anywhere in the name or on the packaging to be making an implied health claim, as consumers are likely to have a positive association for CBD and associate it with positive benefits.

The group is a self-regulatory body funded by the alcohol industry that works alongside the ASA to police certain aspects of alcohol marketing not already subject to regulation by the ASA or Ofcom, including naming, packaging, sponsorship, point-of-sale and brand merchandising.

However, the ASA recently made a ruling on Rebel Wines, a CBD-infused alcoholic beverage brand. In the ruling, the authority made much of Rebel Wines giving its product the brand name “Skinny Rebel White Wine Spritzer”.

The ASA said implying a food or drink had reduced calories was a nutrition claim that could not be made. It rejected the brand’s assertion that “skinny” would be understood as either a reduced alcohol or reduced energy claim.

The advertising watchdog said: “The brand name was ‘Skinny Rebel’, which we considered consumers would understand to mean that the product could help to maintain or lose weight or could help to maintain weight when compared to alternative products, and that consuming products from the ‘Skinny Rebel’ range would therefore have those effects. It was therefore a health claim.”

It rejected the association between less alcohol and “skinny” out of hand and added that, to make a reduced energy claim, the brand would have needed to provided information to show products from the Skinny Rebel range had at least 30% less energy than other similar products.


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    A curious oversight


    But at no point did either the ASA or the brand address the addition of CBD in the drink as part of the ruling. This, you would assume, means that Rebel Wines made no health claims about CBD. However, on its site it is easy to find information such as: “Humans have used CBD for its relaxing qualities for thousands of years. From the Empires of China and the Far East, to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, it was used for its healing and pain relief qualities.”

    Writing like that is enough to be sanctioned as a health claim in other cases.

    Similarly, as stated, the Portman Group had already ruled that the mere mention of CBD in an alcoholic product was enough to be considered a health claim. To which it might be countered that the Portman Group is supposed to rule on other aspects of alcohol marketing not covered by the ASA or Ofcom.

    But the ruling from the ASA was on a trademarked brand name using the word “skinny”, and a brand name is the same area covered by the Portman Group ruling. Therefore, jurisdiction arguments cannot apply. Perhaps then, it is simply a matter of the challenge. The ASA itself only challenged whether the claim “Skinny Rebel” complied with the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (CAP). Perhaps that was too narrow a scope for it to investigate the additional CBD information.

    It remains a curious oversight nonetheless. And potentially indicative of a lack of joined-up thinking in marketing regulation in the UK, which would hardly make it a unique problem given the number of other areas suffering similar silo issues.

    Perhaps the ASA or the Portman Group will go back and address the CBD alcohol issue with Rebel Wines. For now though, as many operators apparently know, there appears to be minimal risk in continuing CBD alcohol marketing.

     Freddie Dawson CannIntelligence staff

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    Freddie Dawson