Ulrich Adam: labels should outline environmental impact

27th October, 2020 by Owen Bellwood

The director general of Spirits Europe said there was “clearly a demand” for producers to display their environmental impact on labels, with a proposal on the measure expected in 2022.

Spirits Europe director general Ulrich Adam says labels should convey environmental information

Speaking to The Spirits Business, Ulrich Adam, director of the European trade body, said consumers are increasingly looking for products with values that match their lifestyles, such as gluten-free labelling or vegan-friendly markers. As such, distillers could soon be encouraged to demonstrate their environmental impact through packaging.

“There is clearly a demand for environmental and sustainability information,” said Adam. “Brands are conveying more information about the environment and they could bring messaging about how they are trying to build a sustainable brand. That is clearly something that I think consumers are more interested in.”

According to Adam, discussions surrounding sustainability messaging are still in the “early days”, and distillers have so far conveyed their environmental credentials through brand stories and broader product information.

He said: “Now, in Brussels, we are at the beginning of a process where the European Commission is looking to come up with proposals for how sustainability information could be conveyed. That is a very complex and potentially comprehensive issue.”

The first proposals under the subject are not expected until 2022, and Adam says any proposals must be evidence-based and convey “meaningful” information as label space is at a premium.

“You can put a whole lot of information out, but the space on the label is limited, so what information could be conveyed by digital means?” he said. “The beauty clearly in digital is that you have potentially limitless space to convey information, so for those consumers who want to read up or want to find out more they will go to the digital space to see what the sustainability story is.”

However, Adam warned that environmental impact information on labels must be conveyed in a way that can be easily understood by consumers.

“We’ve seen before in food and drinks on sustainability labelling, such as Fairtrade, some of them have different standards,” he said. “So I think the consumer can be trying to make a conscious choice but it’s not easy. It can be so complex that if you have two organic labels or Fairtrade labels you will not be able to say ‘this one is actually better’ unless you really spend an hour or two looking into what it really means.

“We must be meaningful and we cannot overload, if it’s suggestive and the information behind it is too complex then that is a slippery slope.”

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