The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) is a body that represents hundreds of wine and spirit producers, exporters, importers, transporters and sellers in the UK. If you’re a trade body involved in wines and spirits you’re likely a member and with annual memberships reaching upwards of an eye-watering £62k+ they do more than just produce member directories and annual wine fairs, “We campaign for a vibrant and sustainable wine and spirit industry, helping to build a future in which alcohol, and alcohol alternatives, are produced, sold and enjoyed responsibly.”
In that vein, the WSTA has now produced the UK's first labelling guides for low-and-no-alcohol beverages. The ‘WSTA Guidance on labelling of low and no ‘spirit’ alternatives was published on August 3rd and is said to be the first comprehensive guide of its kind.
Comprised of three documents that have been produced in collaboration with its members, it aims to illuminate the confusion felt by many (if not all) over the “marketing, labelling and production” of low-and-no-alcohol wines and spirits.”
The first two documents are available now to members:
Document 1 - WSTA Marketing Guide for Alcohol Alternatives
Focuses solely on beverages marketed at adults but containing a maximum ABV of 0.5%
Document 2 - WSTA Guidance on Labelling of Low and No ‘Spirit’ Alternatives
The second guide is an extension of a previous iteration from 2021 and contains “pointers” for best practice, suggested legal descriptors and “pragmatic solutions to conflicting legislative requirements”.
Document 3 - WSTA Guidance on Labelling of Low and No ‘Wine’ Alternatives
Is scheduled to be released in the next few weeks.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA is quoted by Drinks Retailing* to have said:
“As the low and no sector continues to innovate and grow the WSTA is pleased to offer - for the first time in the UK - a comprehensive set of guides to help members navigate the often-confusing world of describing, labelling and marketing low-and-no-alcohol drinks.
“These detailed documents offer clarity and comprehensive guidance to help producers avoid pitfalls. If you are making low and no wines and spirits these guides are a must-read.”
The Department of Health and Social Care
Further consultation is expected to be carried out this summer by the Department of Health and Social Care to assess opinions on changing the guidance around required descriptors for low/no products which at present state that alcohol-free is 0.05% in the UK. In Europe however alcohol-free is 0.5%, making imported drinks a minefield of confusion for consumers. The current guidance also states that low alcohol is anything below 1.2% and that de-alcoholised drinks can be no more than 0.5%. However, as this is all guidance and not a legal mandate it leaves room for uncertainty that can cause more harm than good.
The DHSC attempted a review on this subject previously in 2018 but came to no clear conclusions despite cries from both consumers and producers to bring clarity to the situation. The WSTA hopes that the guidance for the term alcohol-free will see the maximum permissible ABV raised from 0.05% to 0.5% bringing it in line with Europe and the US, “This would provide consistency between the UK and European markets in these products, as well as providing clarity to today’s confused consumers.”
The ultimate goal of the DHSC consultation is to
Iincrease the substitution of standard-strength alcohol products with low and no products by those drinking above low-risk levels and
To facilitate a shift in the market from sales and promotion of alcoholic products towards low and no alternatives.
“…it is absolutely vital that consumers understand what it is they are buying if they are going to support this small but growing segment of the market. If the government wants to see a continued change in consumer behaviour it needs to work closely with the producers and retailers, where the expertise lies.
We are encouraging DHSC to press on with the consultation and make the changes producers, retailers and consumers want, so they can get on with supporting the growth of low and no products.”**