Drinks containing 0.5 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) could be labelled alcohol free, in line with countries like the USA, New Zealand, Germany and Australia. Potential changes will make no and low-alcohol drinks more popular and easier to buy, helping shift the market to healthier alternatives.
The public consultation launched on Thursday (28) will seek views on whether to raise the threshold for describing a drink as “alcohol free” to 0.5 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV). The threshold in the UK is currently 0.05 per cent while ‘Low alcohol’ refers to any product 1.2 per cent ABV or below.
A higher threshold could see more no and low-alcohol products on the market with increasing availability in retail and expanding product ranges. This could encourage thousands more people to choose an alcohol-free or low alcohol drink to make healthier choices, moderate alcohol intake, and normalise alternatives to alcohol.
The potential changes could drive the productivity of businesses, help remove red tape, and allow them to more easily manufacture these drinks to benefit from the multi-billion-pound alcohol-free drinks market.
Public Health Minister Neil O’Brien said, “No and low alcohol drinks are getting more and more popular, and we are looking to further support their growth. Many other countries around the world already allow more freedom over this. Liberalising labelling guidelines could also help people make more informed choices about the drinks they buy.
“We want to encourage the growth of no and low alcohol alternatives for those looking to moderate their alcohol intake.”
The government is clear these products should not be marketed to children or consumed by them. Through the consultation, the government is seeking views on measures it can take with industry to prevent children and young people from accessing and consuming these products, including potential age restriction warnings on products.
Views are also being sought on whether to update labelling guidelines, so that manufacturers display the alcohol percentage on any no or low- alcohol product clearly on the bottle.
Marcos Salazar, CEO of the Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association said, “As the no and low-alcohol category continues to grow and provide greater choice for consumers looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, it is essential that there is consistency between the UK, European, and other international markets in terms of labelling.
“The Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association (ANBA) welcomes the Department of Health and Social Care’s decision to launch this consultation today, and will continue to work closely with the government to help support its aims of increasing the availability of alcohol-free products for consumers.”
Matt Lambert, CEO of The Portman Group said, “We welcome the new consultation, which we hope will help result in greater clarity on labels and encourage further uptake of low and no alcohol alternatives.
“Our annual polling repeatedly shows that these products are already helping UK consumers moderate their drinking and avoid harms such as drink driving. It is also an important opportunity to highlight the continued commitment of producers to market and sell these products responsibly to adult consumers.”
A fifth of adults in England currently drink above the low-risk guidelines of 14 units per week – significantly increasing their risk of ill-health, poorer quality of life, and even premature death. Views are being sought on how to support those looking to moderate their alcohol consumption and provide them with greater choice when looking for alternatives to alcohol.
The multi-billion-pound alcohol-free drinks market has increased rapidly in recent years, predominantly driven by alcohol-free beer, which has been described as one of the fastest-growing drinks trends in the UK.