In response, Paul Skehan, Director General of SpiritsEurope, the representative body for the spirits industry at European level (comprising 31 association and eight multinational members) has welcomed “this overdue report”, adding that, “The delay in its publication has led to equal measures of frustration and speculation.
“Now, with the release of the report, we’ve clarity from the Commission as to its preferred future orientation. We’ve already stated that we’ve no objection to providing consumers with relevant information.
“Indeed, giving consumers what they want is what our sector has been doing for decades, centuries even…
“The devil is in the details, of course,” he continued, “The amount and type of information given are key issues as is the manner in which that information is provided. While the average consumer may have an increased interest in the calories contained in their beverages of choice, we don’t sense any significant increase in demand for knowledge about the ingredients contained in our products.
“In addition, there’s no value in showing calories per 100ml – such a reference would grossly misrepresent the calories present in an average glass, depending if consumers choose spirits, beer or wine.
“It would also confuse and potentially contradict our messages related to moderate drinking. Showing the information per serving would allow for useful comparison and facilitate informed choices.
“We’re careful about the breadth of information that we already convey to consumers – not only the array of information that’s required by EU and national legislation, but also the wealth of information we provide about responsible drinking. Adding more and more information is not necessarily useful and may potentially confuse rather than educate. A balance is needed.
“Finally, we believe the mechanism for providing the information should be best left to the producer: while some may prefer to re-design labels to convey the material, others see more scope for information being provided using modern, digital means. Why prescribe labels when more comprehensive and more flexible online media are evolving and improving day by day?” he concluded.
SpiritsEurope will respond to the report “in a constructive practical manner – always keeping the real consumer to the fore in our considerations”.
Diageo too has welcomed the recent publication by the European Commission of the report which also deals with the exemption granted to alcohol products from certain mandatory labelling requirements.
In a statement published recently, the company stated that it shares the aim of governments and health professionals around the world to tackle alcohol misuse and promote responsible drinking and believes that better information is a necessary step to achieve this.
It believes that the report opens the way to greater collaboration between industry and European institutions and also makes it clear that companies are a necessary voice to create appropriate solutions to providing clear and useful information about alcohol to people, based on their needs.
Last year Diageo spoke to more than 1,500 consumers around the world including people from Great Britain and Spain about labelling and it was told that, of all the information that could be included on the limited space on labels, alcohol information (standard drink size, ABV, how many units), calories per serve, sugar content, allergens and brand facts (such as how a product is made) were most helpful.
“This is why we committed to the voluntary inclusion of nutrition and alcohol content information on labels as we believe it’s the best and fastest way to inform consumers on what they’re drinking,” stated the company.
Diageo’s approach, publically available, has been developed in its new Diageo Consumer Information Standards launched in July 2016.
New labels will be introduced on all its existing brands and on all innovations with Johnnie Walker being the first global brand on which the scheme is being implemented; first bottles will be shipped in Europe from April.