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UK govt: ‘Missed opportunity’ for low-alcohol ‘clarity’

The growing contingent of low- and no-alcohol drinks brands “risks being undermined” by “confusing product descriptors” in the UK, the Portman Group has argued in light of a new government decision.

“Outdated and confusing product descriptors” risk “undermining” growth of no- and low-alcohol products in the UK

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Social Care launched a consultation into whether the current descriptors for low- and no-alcohol products resonate with consumers and industry. The current labelling regulations are due to expire next month.

Industry responsibility body the Portman Group urged the UK government to simplify the terms for products containing low alcoholic content, or no alcohol at all.

The watchdog said changes could bring UK regulations in line with the rest of Europe, and recommended 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

However, the Department of Health and Social Care has said that there will be no changes to low- and no-alcohol descriptors, which the Portman Group has called a “missed opportunity”.

John Timothy, Portman Group chief executive, said: “We’re disappointed by this outcome as it’s a huge missed opportunity. Clarity and consistency on descriptors would have brought the UK into line with the rest of Europe, creating a level playing field for our drinks producers as well as giving consumers greater clarity around what they are buying.

“Producers continue to invest heavily in the development of new and exciting low and no products but this risks being undermined by an insistence on retaining outdated and confusing product descriptors.”

For a more in-depth look at the non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ market, see the November 2018 edition of The Spirits Business, out now.

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