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Heineken and Carlsberg back brewers’ pledge for nutritional labeling on beer

By Rachel Arthur+

30-Mar-2015
Last updated on 30-Mar-2015 at 10:39 GMT2015-03-30T10:39:09Z

What's in a glass of beer? Nutrition and ingredient labeling will help consumers find out
What's in a glass of beer? Nutrition and ingredient labeling will help consumers find out

Heineken, Carlsberg, SAB Miller, and AB InBev are backing a pledge from The Brewers of Europe, which commits to listing ingredients and nutritional information on beer. 

The Brewers of Europe – the trade association representing 5,000 breweries – says the voluntary move will help consumers become more informed about beverages.  

Foods and beverages are covered by the EU Regulation on Food Information to Consumers (FIC), but alcoholic beverages of more than 1.2% ABV are exempt from providing ingredients and nutritional listings.

But The Brewers of Europe wants members to follow the same rules voluntarily. It hopes this move will encourage other alcoholic drink sectors to follow its lead.

Like-for-like

Pierre-Olivier Bergeron, secretary general, told BeverageDaily.com that The Brewers of Europe want to let consumers compare like-for-like facts with all beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, per 100ml.

“The first thing the regulations state for any drink – apart from alcoholic beverages – is the list of ingredients,” he said. “The list of ingredients should be provided to consumers in descending order. With beer, you’d start with water; then cereals, malted barley, hops and yeast.”

With regards to nutritional information, brewers will provide energy values in kilocalories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, carbohydrates of which sugars, protein, and salt.  

“What we’re committing to is a situation where individual breweries provide those big seven on pack or online,” said Bergeron.

On pack or online

Bergeron said consumers are interested in accessing information off-label as well as on pack. For example, 47% of consumers were ‘very interested’ in using product or brand related websites to access ingredient information or nutritional information for alcoholic beverages.  

The body is asking brewers to provide information ‘on pack and/or online.’

“We’re not establishing any particular hierarchy between label and online platforms,” said Bergeron.

“We’re in a situation where consumers are increasingly equipped with access to online information. The penetration of fixed internet and mobile internet is expanding at an incredibly fast pace.

“One thing that is important: if a brewer chooses not to list nutritional values on the label, nevertheless they would have to clearly indicate how the consumer gets that information – a QR code or similar.”

Level playing field

So will brewers plump for on pack labels or online information?

“It’s difficult to predict, I think it’s going to be a mix,” said Bergeron. “It’s going to be interesting to see how this moves forward. It could be that in half a decade global operators or smaller medium brewers will realise penetration of online is such that it is a priority.”

The Brewers of Europe has not set a timescale for implementation.

“It’s an important move, but the brewing sector in Europe is a colourful landscape of big and small breweries so it’s going to take some time,” said Bergeron.

“If individual breweries of our association want some support or calculation of nutritional values, we will be helping them.”

The European Commission is due to release a review of FIC’s current exemption for alcoholic beverages to provide ingredient and nutritional information. If the rules were to be extended to alcoholic beverages, The Brewers of Europe say it is essential that a level playing field is set out among all alcoholic drinks.

Earlier this month, spirits, wine and beer company Diageo pledged to provide nutritional information for each serve, either on pack or online. 

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