By Denis Sheehan, Publisher, H&C News: New PM to increase alcohol levels in no and low alcohol beers.
With the economy heading fast in the wrong direction amidst spiralling inflation the new PM, which ever of the two options prevail, is set to follow Nero’s example and fiddle.
The no and low alcohol beer market in the UK has been one segment that has flourished despite world events. UK sales of low-alcohol and no-alcohol beers have almost doubled in five years.
Some beer brands have also introduced truly alcohol free 0% beers, which like their no and low counterparts are fast growing in popularity and sales.
Great news for the on and off trade, as consumer mindsets seem to prefer what is perceived as an ‘adult’ soft drink option.
So, news that plans are in place to change the ABV limits covering no and low alcohol beer are awaiting sign-off by the next PM would seem at odds with continued growth of what is now an established and important segment of the beer market.
Buoyant consumer preferences for no alcohol drinks do not need confusion added to dilute a strong growth sector especially as there are many reasons for no alcohol choices. The consumer is driving, or has work to do later that day, or has a problem with alcohol.
Currently, no alcohol beer contains less than 0.05 per cent ABV and low alcohol less than 1.2 per cent. The proposed new limits increasing to between 0.5 and 1 per cent and up to about 3 per cent respectively.
Laura Willoughby MBE, founder of mindful drinking movement, Club Soda, and an authority in non-alcoholic drinks told us: “This is surprise news and I am not sure it makes things easier for the consumer.
“Customers and the alcohol-free drinks makers have always asked for clarity that 0.5% is considered alcohol-free like the rest of the world – at the moment government guidance is confusing. At 0.5% and below, this is often a trace element of alcohol naturally occurring in many foods and drinks.
“Consumers need clear guidance on the level of alcohol in drinks that’s going to impact them if they are driving, pregnant or avoiding alcohol. The science is clear on 0.5% ABV, and confirms this level as alcohol-free.”
Given the scale and scope of the issues facing the incoming PM, bringing change to alcohol levels in no and low alcohol beers seems very low priority.