EX-FORMULA One champion Jody Scheckter says the battle of the bottles could sink his brewing operation.

As previously reported in The Gazette, alcohol watchdog organisation Portman Group asked retailers to remove his Laverstoke Park Farm beer from its shelves because the picture of the farmer on the bottle is drawn by a child. The industry-funded watchdog claims this breaches marketing rules because it could appeal to children.

Mr Scheckter, who owns the farm near Overton, said: “I have no intention of bowing down to the Portman Group. In my opinion, it is because they are not challenged that they make such nonsensical decisions.”

But he warned that the Portman decision could end his organic brewing enterprise. He said: “As a small company, we cannot afford to have a nationwide advertising campaign to re-launch the product so the potential for our losses is considerable and it may mean that it is no longer viable for us to produce our award-winning beers.”

He said there could well be a plunge in sales when consumers no longer recognise the product if it is re-labelled. But he said he hoped retailers including the supermarkets, would not “cow-tow” to whatever the Portman group dictated.

Laverstoke has sold more than 170,000 bottles of its ale and lager since 2007, featuring a label design drawn by Mr Scheckter’s son when he was four. The Retailer Alert Bulletin issued by Portman advises that the beers should no longer be sold with the current labelling after January 7, next year. Henry Ashworth, chief executive of Portman Group, said the use of a child’s drawing was “entirely inappropriate for alcohol drinks’ labels”.

He added: “There are no exceptions to the rule which says that alcohol packaging must not appeal to children. “We understand that producers don’t deliberately set out to break the rules but they must be extra vigilant when it comes to marketing alcohol.”