Consumer InformationProvision of ingredients and nutrition information
In March 2015, The Brewers of Europe announced in Brussels a major voluntary move from brewers across Europe to list ingredients and nutrition information on their brands per 100ml, in line with the legal requirements for all non-alcoholic drinks, including non-alcoholic beer.
Whilst an exemption still exists for alcoholic beverages above 1.2% ABV from the legal obligation to provide such information, research shows that consumers wish to receive this information. Implementing this commitment, brewers are empowering consumers with the transparent, comparable facts to see, understand and decide the place for moderate beer consumption within their own balanced diets and lifestyles.
Taking this commitment, the beer sector is also embracing the growth in importance and usage of new technologies, giving a key role not just to labels but also to off-label platforms as a means of delivering information to different consumers in the way and means that they prefer. Consumers are increasingly going online not just for information but also when purchasing products. Where information is provided off-label it should also be easily accessible from the label itself, either by a web-link or through other direct means using smart technologies.
The commitment also built upon actions that had already been started in some countries and by some companies, whereby ingredients listing for beer was already practised in around half of EU countries, whilst three countries – Denmark, Netherlands and Finland – and some companies had already embarked on initiatives to roll out nutrition information.
Online brand information
Through websites such as tapintoyourbeer.com and talkingalcohol.com some major brewing companies are already implementing online the EU’s new food information regulation as it applies and comes into force for all nonalcoholic beverages from end 2016. Alongside this, Carlsberg Group and Heineken are rolling out the information on individual, local brand websites.
Voluntarily rolling out the EU legislation means that, for different brands, ingredients are listed in descending order whilst the information on the big 7 nutrients – energy (in kJ and kCal); protein; carbohydrates; sugar; fat (of which saturated); salt – are provided per 100ml, taking the legal reference measure as laid down in EU law to enable consumers to compare all beverages on a like-for like basis.
As of end 2015 SABMiller had provided this information, in ten different languages, for all of its non-seasonal brands produced and sold in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, The Canaries, UK, The Netherlands, Slovakia and Romania. Nutrition information may additionally be provided per portion, hence why on tapintoyourbeer.com ABInBev also allows visitors to see the values according to different single serve container sizes.
On-label ingredients information
Ingredients are already listed by brewers on label, through either local regulation or a voluntary agreement amongst brewers, in a number of countries, including the following – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden – whilst in France, Croatia, Ireland, Spain and the UK, brewers are expected to follow suit in rolling this out over 2016 and into 2017 as new packaging runs are completed and the beer is brought to market.
For the four major European brewers – who represent over half of the EU beer market in volume terms – the plan is that 80-100% of their products sold on the EU market will carry this information by end 2017, whilst for some brands the information has already now been added to the label and is visible to consumers on the market.
Following a commitment made end 2014 to the Dutch government, stakeholders and the public at large, monitoring by the Dutch Brewers association found that, by mid-2015, the ingredients list already appeared on the labels of 94.3% of the beer sold in the Netherlands by its members. For non-alcoholic beers brewers across Europe already provide the full ingredients lists.
On-label nutrition information
In addition to the three countries – Netherlands, Denmark and Finland – where nutrition information is already provided on label, other countries have agreed to roll-out either the energy (calorie) information or the Big 7 nutrition values by 2017. EU countries where brewers are moving down this route currently include Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK. In many of these countries this country-wide roll-out is driven by commitments taken by the major brewers, together representing a significant share of some national markets.
Since adding the nutrition information to labels is typically on the same packaging change schedule as the ingredients listing, the major brewers also plan that 80-100% of their products brewed and sold on the EU market will carry the nutrition information by end 2017. The monitoring of on-label nutrition information for all products brewed and sold on the EU market does however remain challenging, also due to the rapid growth in brewer numbers and increasing diversification of the beer portfolio.
There may also be some variations in the way and extent to which this information is provided on-label, taking into account the limited space on labels for legible information once all other legally required and consumer-requested information is provided and the increasing opportunity that other digital tools offer to deliver this information.
For example, brewers activating the commitment will at minimum provide energy information per 100ml on primary packaging, then as appropriate also use secondary packaging to show the Big 7. As an example, ABInBev also plans on some single serve containers to provide the information per portion size (an option provided for in the EU Regulation) in addition to the obligatory per 100ml information that is required by EU law.
By mid-2015 the nutrition declaration already appeared on the labels of 89.3% of the beer sold on the Dutch Market by the members of the Dutch Brewers. For non-alcoholic beers many brewers pre-empted the entry into force of the EU regulation, which applied from end 2016, and already provided the full nutrition information per 100ml.