After a delay of nearly two years, the Portman Group - which is funded by 17 alcohol beverage giants and acts as a self-regulator for the industry - is calling on the government to prioritise the review in 2023.
The consultation would seek views on updating the terminology around the various ways in which products below 1.2%ABV are marketed – which the group describes as ‘a key source of confusion’ for UK consumers.
Maintaining momentum for moderate drinking
Current UK guidance sets out ‘low alcohol’ as less than 1.2% ABV, ‘alcohol-free’ as under 0.05% (in contrast to a number of other markets which use 0.5%); and sets out presentation and labelling requirements.
The Portman Group - which describes itself as the 'social responsibility body and regulator for alcohol labelling' - notes the positive consumer trend towards moderating alcohol intake - and says it does not want to see this lose momentum.
New YouGov consumer research reveals that over one quarter (29%) of alcohol drinkers now also semi-regularly drink alcohol alternatives, compared to almost a third (32%) in 2021 and a quarter (25%) in 2020.
For the fifth year in a row, the top reasons cited for drinking low and no alcohol are being able to drive home safely from social events and taking part in social events without drinking to excess. Furthermore, one in six (17%) of those who have tried low and no drinks say their alcohol consumption has reduced since first trying them, demonstrating their role in encouraging moderate and responsible drinking.
Looking ahead, those looking to reduce alcohol consumption in 2023 said they will drink fewer alcoholic drinks at home (37%), have more alcohol-free days (30%) and a further quarter (25%) said they plan to stop drinking at home altogether.
Matt Lambert, CEO, the Portman Group, said: “The variety and availability of low and no alcoholic drinks has never been stronger, reflecting a huge increase in consumer popularity.
“The vast majority of consumers already drink responsibly within the Chief Medical Officer guidelines, but it is particularly pleasing to see evidence that low and no options are playing a role in encouraging people to moderate their drinking.
“We are calling on the government to launch the low-alcohol descriptors consultation this year to give further support to the low and no alcohol sector. It has been expected for nearly two years, but given the turbulent political year this hasn’t been prioritised. This is an important review which should see alignment with global descriptors and give another push to this innovative category which is an active substitute for alcohol and supports moderate drinking.”
The Portman Group is funded by seventeen member companies: Asahi UK Ltd; Aston Manor Cider; Bacardi; Brown-Forman; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Campari; C&C Group; Diageo GB; Edrington UK, Heineken UK; Mark Anthony Brands International; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Molson Coors Beverage Company; Pernod Ricard UK; SHS Drinks; Thatchers Cider and Treasury Wine Estates.