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Portman Group calls for low alcohol ‘level playing field’

The responsibility body for UK drinks groups has urged the government to provide “clarity and consistency” with regards to low alcohol descriptors.

Simplified labelling of low alcohol drinks could provide a “level playing field” for brands

Watchdog the Portman Group is urging the UK government to simplify the terms for products containing low alcoholic content, or no alcohol at all.

The call comes following the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on the issue, which seeks public opinion on whether the descriptors still resonate with consumers and industry.

Current labelling regulations for food and drink in the UK are due to expire in December this year.

Portman Group recommends the following:

–      Remove the term ‘de-alcoholised’ as consumers find this confusing

–      Introduce a minimum strength of above 0.5% abv to the category of ‘low alcohol’ to go up to and include 1.2% abv

–      Raise the ‘alcohol free’ threshold to 0.5% abv from where it currently sits at 0.05% abv and bring the UK into line with other European countries

–      Both ‘alcohol-free’ and ‘non-alcoholic’ could be used interchangeably to describe products of 0.5% abv or less, which would reflect current market-use and consumer perceptions

John Timothy, CEO of Portman Group, called the recent consultation “good news”.

He added: “The innovation in the low and no categories being led by producers and retailers is a great success story, and this is an opportunity for the industry and government to provide much-needed clarity and consistency for consumers.

“Updating the thresholds in a way that will bring UK regulations in line with existing practice in the majority of European countries will create a level playing field for drinks producers. This is especially important as the market for low and no alcohol drinks continues to grow.”

For a more in-depth look at the rise of low- and no-alcohol serves in the on-trade, see this feature by The Spirits Business.

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