Alcohol manufacturers move towards calorie labelling

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

The Portman Group is calling for calorie labelling to remain voluntary
The Portman Group is calling for calorie labelling to remain voluntary

Related tags Packaging & labelling Ingredients & nutrition Drinks

Almost half (47%) of alcoholic drinks from leading UK brands now carry calorie information on their labels, in addition to other warnings, the drinks watchdog The Portman Group has revealed.

The Informing Alcohol Consumers: 2021 UK Market Review​,​ collected data from a sample of over 400 of the most widely consumed alcoholic drinks. The Portman Group said it revealed that there is an industry-wide commitment to provide consumers with public health information on labels, despite no legal requirement to do so.

Of the over 400 alcoholic drinks studied, the vast majority of drinks already contained a pregnancy warning (99%), alcoholic unit information (94%) and a reference to a responsibility message, or to Drinkaware (93%).

In addition, almost four in five (79%) carry the latest UK Chief Medical Officer low risk drinking guidelines, the report said.

Obesity strategy

The Government unveiled its plans to consult over alcohol labelling in its obesity strategy, which was launched in July 2020​ in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

At the time the British Beer & Pub Association said the move would be costly for brewers and called it 'burdensome red tape'.

Voluntary labelling

The Portman Group is calling for labelling to remain voluntary ahead of an impending consultation from the Department of Health and Social Care.

“Responsible alcohol marketing needs to be clear, and have information that consumers can easily understand to make informed choices. It is a significant achievement that the industry is delivering on its commitments to ensuring high standards of voluntary best practice. As our report shows, calorie information on alcohol labelling is firmly on track to become a majority wide industry practise as we have already seen with unit labelling, pregnancy, Drinkaware and responsibility messages,” ​said Portman Group CEO, Matt Lambert.

“It also shows a significant considerable/ (or) an important acceleration in progress has been made in updating labelling to include the latest UK Chief Medical Officer guidance on low-risk drinking meaning that the industry is voluntarily delivering clear information and on track to near universal adherence without recourse to valuable Parliamentary time.”

However, Richard Horwell - owner of Brand Relations - has argued a voluntary approach wouldn't work​.

Best practice guidance

Since 2017 the Portman Group has been advising the industry on adhering to the most recent industry Best Practice Guidance​. This recommends how to show information including units; the Chief Medical Officers’ Low Risk Drinking Guidelines; advice on drinking during pregnancy; a responsibility statement; the promotion of Drinkaware advice; calorie content; nutritional information; drink-driving messages; and the communication that alcohol is an age-restricted product.

The Portman Group said it would now seek to engage with the small minority of producers who aren’t demonstrating the minimum requirements of the guidance.

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