While on pack labels remain the most immediate way to reach consumers, drinkers are also showing increased willingness to access information from digital devices.
GfK Belgium, a market research company, carried out a consumer insight study in 2014. This was followed with another survey in 2016, on behalf of The Brewers of Europe, in order to show how attitudes have changed.
This week, The Brewers of Europe announced that more than half the beer brewed in the EU will carry ingredients and nutrition information by the end of next year, responding to consumer demand.
Germany, Spain, Romania…
The survey in 2014 showed that 69% of consumers believed alcoholic beverages should provide the same nutrition information per 100ml as for other food and drink products. Now, this proportion has grown to 86%.
Light (89%) and moderate (86%) drinkers are keener to receive the same ingredients and nutrition information than excessive drinkers (81%).
In terms of ingredients, in 2014, 74% of consumers wanted to see ingredients information on alcoholic beverages. Today, this has risen to 86%.
While the overarching trend sees consumers calling for more information, the strength of this call varies between countries, as does the interest in different types of information.
In Romania, for example, 96% and 94% of consumers agree that all products should provide ingredients and nutritional information respectively. In the Netherlands, these figures are 74% and 77%.
“In Spain and Italy, the culture of drinking alcoholic beverages in accompaniment to a meal may explain the high interest Spanish and Italian consumers show in these different kinds of information,” said the report.
“In Germany, the ‘Reinheitsgebot’ or ‘German Beer Purity Law’ is an existing regulation concerning the production of beer which stipulates the only ingredients that can be used in the production of beer.
“As a result, German consumers may be less interested in these types of information, as they already know them.
“In Denmark and the Netherlands, self-regulation lays down that the information concerning beer nutritional values and beer ingredients should be shared with the consumers.”
In the EU, food and drink is required to provide information on ingredients and nutrition. However, alcoholic beverages of more than 1.2% ABV are exempt, unless national regulation provides otherwise (which is true for beer in at least four European countries).
However, brewers are increasingly providing such information voluntarily: a trend seen not only in Europe but the US as well.
In the EU, a voluntary initiative from The Brewers of Europe suggests beer should provide information on energy values in kilocalories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, carbohydrates of which sugars, protein, and salt. It recommends brewers do this ‘on pack and/or online’.
In the US, the Beer Institute’s Brewers Voluntary Disclosure Initiative says brewers should provide a list of ingredients (either on pack or online); a servings facts statement on labels (with calorie, carbohydrate, protein, fat and ABV) and a freshness date or date of production on labels or primary containers.
On pack, or online?
Traditionally, information on ingredients and nutrition has been provided on brand labels, through in-store or in-bar communications (posters or on-shelf labels) and advertising (TV, magazines or billboards).
Today, digital online sources include smartphone or tablet applications, brand websites, public health authority websites, and general health and nutrition websites.
The report suggests that brands need to provide ingredient and nutrition information over multiple sources. A third of consumers focus solely on one information source; while two thirds consider two or more sources.
In 2014, more than half of consumers would never or only rarely access information via online sources. Today, two-thirds say they would use online platforms, either exclusively or combined with traditional offline sources.
“The survey indicates an increased use of digital and online information sources to access ingredients and nutrition information for alcoholic beverages.
“Just under a third would solely rely on traditional sources, whilst around a sixth would solely rely on digital and online platforms.”
Therefore, the label still plays an important role in communicating to consumers, says the survey.
“While only around a fifth of consumers would rely exclusively on the label, when consumers indicated they would use one or more sources of information, the label was referenced by around 70% of consumers.”
The survey was conducted in nine EU countries (Germany, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, Italy, France and Romania), with 9,008 consumers surveyed.