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Low alcohol drinks descriptors – UK Government opens consultation

The low alcohol category has been growing fast in the UK, and this is predicted to continue.  Current rules on how low alcohol drinks (with 1.2% ABV or lower) may be described will expire in December 2018.  Ahead of that, the UK Government has opened a public consultation to determine how best to communicate information about low alcohol drinks.

The descriptors currently used are as follows:

Low alcohol – means a product with 1.2% ABV or lower

Alcohol free – the product must have 0.05% ABV or lower

De-alcoholised – the product must have 0.5% ABV or lower

Non-alcoholic wine – can only be used for communion or sacramental wine.

Under the present rules, a drink that would be regarded as relatively low in alcohol, such as a 2.5% ABV beer or a 5% ABV wine, cannot be described in that way.  The Government’s thinking seems to be that wider availability and marketing of lower strength drinks will attract more consumers to them, thus reducing alcohol consumption and its harmful effects.  Indications are that the drinks trade will support this strongly, so watch out for proposals to loosen up the existing rules to enable marketing of lower strength drinks before the year is out.