Paris, 4 June 2019 – spiritsEUROPE, the trade association representing the producers of spirit drinks in Europe signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today in which the sector commits to provide energy information on label together with full ingredient listing and detailed product-specific information online. The signature ceremony took place in the presence of EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis during the association’s General Assembly meeting in Paris.
The MoU is a voluntary agreement facilitated by the European Commission which goes well beyond the initial commitments made by the sector in March 2018.
For the first time, the MoU foresees a highly dynamic and ambitious roll-out plan on providing energy values on label according to which one in four bottles placed on the EU market can be expected to include energy information on-label by the end of 2020 – a share that is set to rise to 50% and 66% by the end of 2021 and 2022 respectively.
For online ingredient listing, the sector will go above and beyond existing legislative obligations, committing to indicate raw materials for all mono raw material spirits categories and vodka.
Following a long and intense period of negotiations over the past 14 months, conducted under the direction and auspices of EU Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, VytenisAndriukaitis in the European Commission, the MoU’s aim is to put forward a common understanding and formulate a transparent and an ambitious self-regulatory approach that takes into account consumer information needs as well as sector-specific aspects and the existing legal framework.
The signatories – several company members and trade association members signed individually alongside spiritsEUROPE – will work with the Commission to monitor the impact and effectiveness of the MoU. Two meetings per year are foreseen to review and analyse the progress achieved on a regular basis.
“We are proud about the unique and pioneering commitment signed today by the European spirit producers which will provide consumers with the information they are looking for”, said Christian Porta, President of spiritsEUROPE.
“Calorie information will appear on the bottles and we’ll keep developing comprehensive ingredients and nutritional information through easy-to-use online tools for our customers so they are further empowered to make informed and responsible choice”, he added. “The text agreed today provides European distillers with the necessary clarity and guidance to implement the agreed rules within a highly ambitious timeline,” he concluded.
Commissioner Andriukaitis said: “We live in a time where consumers increasingly want to be better informed about what they eat and drink so they can make healthier choices. I am therefore pleased that today the spirits sector makes a leap forward providing Europeans with that very possibility.
I understand that many companies and associations had to get around the table to come up with the plan that I am being presented today. I congratulate the sector for these efforts and call on all producers to implement the MoU’s provisions along the agreed parameters and timeline.”
Can you summarise the core commitments made in today’s MoU?
Spirits producers will voluntarily start to roll out energy information on-label combined with comprehensive ingredients and nutritional information online. Calorie information will be provided per 100ml and, more importantly for consumers, per serving size.
What are the benefits for consumers?
Consumers will be provided with understandable, recognisable, comparable and accurate information on spirit drinks and further empowered to make informed and responsible choices.
In how far is the MoU going beyond current legal obligations in the EU?
With the MoU, the spirits sector will go well beyond the current legal obligations which provide that alcoholic beverages above 1.2% abv are exempted from having to provide nutrition information and ingredient listing.
How quickly will these commitments be implemented?
Very quickly. The plan to provide energy values on label and comprehensive ingredients information online is highly dynamic and ambitious: the collective total EU market share (by volume) of products placed on the EU market providing energy information on-label and list of ingredients online will amount to 25% by the end of 2020. In other words, one in four bottles placed on the EU market can be expected to provide such information – a share that is set to rise continuously to one in every two bottles (50%) and two in every three bottles (66%) by the end of 2021 and 2022 respectively.
How were the roll-out targets set and what will happen after 2022?
The targets have been set to provide a self-regulatory framework that is clear, transparent, and ambitious, while also taking into account the sector’s structural realities. Given the financial and logistical challenges attached to the process, certain producers – particularly the many small and medium-sized producers across Europe – may need more time to implement these commitments. We expect the 66% target (to be reached by 2022) to rise continuously afterwards and will work closely with our members and the European Commission to assess progress.
Why has it taken 14 months to agree the MoU?
The MoU is the result of a cordial and constructive dialogue with the European Commission to develop a clear, transparent and ambitious plan that can be delivered in self-regulation. Consumer information needs as well as sector-specific aspects and the existing legal framework had to be duly considered during the process, companies and associations had to be consulted. 14 months is a very short timeframe when compared to legislation. For instance, it took five years to adopt the latest Spirits Drink Regulation 2019/787.
What are the next steps and what is the role of the Commission in the process?
Following today’s signature, the MoU was handed over to Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. We look forward to working closely with the European Commission in the coming months to assess and report on the functioning of the MoU.
Can you explain the commitment made in today’s MoU with regards to online ingredients listing?
Ingredients will be declared on line with the applicable EU legislation (Regulations 1169/2011, 1333/2008 and 1334/2008 respectively). In addition, spirits producers commit to include information on raw materials for certain spirits categories in the online ingredient list. This step goes well beyond the existing legal framework which provides that raw materials used for the production of spirits are not considered ingredients given they are no longer present in the final product (e.g. there is no grain in a bottle of whisky and no grapes in a bottle of wine spirit). We will deliver specific guidelines to our members on the different available options on how to indicate raw materials for spirits.
How will you provide product-specific online information “from the click of a smartphone”?
We have started a formal cooperation with the global supply-chain standardization body GS1 to make consumer information directly available from bottles via smartphone barcode scans. The standard that will be developed together with GS1 will provide a common language for all relevant actors on product-specific nutrition and ingredient information. This information will then be made available via open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to allow for the development of new and innovative digital information tools such as dedicated mobile apps.