Brussels, 12 March 2018 – Nutrition information and ingredients listing will be made available to consumers for all EU spirits, either on or off-label. spiritsEUROPE will support its members in their efforts to provide this information and will regularly assess, and report on, the use of both options over the next four years.
Today, seven trade associations representing producers of spirits, wine, cider and beer presented a joint voluntary commitment on the provision of consumer information to Health Commissioner Vytenis Andruikaitis. The document is supplemented by four annexes, detailing the implementation of the commitment for each sector.
As the Regulation currently stands, spirits producers wishing to voluntarily display nutrition information on label must do so per 100ml, which represent more than three standard servings of spirits and contradicts responsible drinking messages. This has been, and remains, a crucial problem for many operators when choosing where to display the information.
“We ask the Commission to consider allowing energy on spirits labels to be given more prominently per serving size than per 100ml, but also to require that all alcoholic beverages not habitually consumed in 100ml servings provide energy / nutrition per serving” said Ulrich Adam, Director General of spiritsEUROPE.
For spirits drinks, energy information will always be provided per portion (or single serve container) and, as required, per 100 ml. In addition, when providing information online, European spirits producers commit to go above and beyond the requirements of Regulation 1169/2011 and will provide:
“Today, we are presenting an approach that is serious, flexible, and scalable. Over the next four years, we will fully support our members in their efforts to provide nutrition and ingredient information. Some companies, in particular the many SMEs active in our sector, may opt for online solutions. Others will choose to provide information on label, in addition to the information being available online. As part of our commitment to boost consumer information online, the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) has been contracted to develop a Pilot Project which will make multilingual product information directly accessible to consumers, by scanning the barcode on the packaging via a smartphone, scanner facilities in-store or on-line. The Pilot’s results will be made available during the second half of 2018” said Ulrich Adam.
“Our aim is to provide harmonised and consistent information that is available to any consumer anytime, anywhere – and in their own language. This is made possible by the rapidly evolving digital technologies and is confirmed by recent research which shows that consumers are increasingly turning to digital and mobile sources of information before, during and after shopping” added Ulrich Adam.
In the spirits Annex, spiritsEUROPE also draws attention to the important particularities of spirits that need to be taken into account when discussing the provision of nutrition and ingredient information to consumers.
In the EU, dedicated rules exist that pre-define exactly how spirits must be made, and what they can be made from. In terms of nutrition, many categories of spirits are simply a distillate of their raw material. Hence calories only come from their alcohol content and they do not contain fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugar, protein or salt (the case is different for complex spirits, including liqueurs, where there is there is a minimum sugar requirement and other spirits using flavouring and additives).
“Given the particularities of spirits, the category name on the label of a spirit acts as an anchor of trust. It is also an added tool to provide information to consumers as different spirits brands within the same category will broadly have the same ingredients and energy content.”, Adam underlined.
The first progress report on the provision of information on label and online will be published in October 2019. spiritsEUROPE will continue to assess and report at regular intervals until 2022.
1. Why were alcoholic beverages exempted from labelling energy and ingredients back in 2011?
While fully a part of the food sector, it was acknowledged that alcoholic beverages require a marginally different treatment to other foodstuffs when labelling energy and ingredients. To account for these specificities, it was decided to temporarily exempt alcoholic beverages form the scope of regulation 1169/2011 until the Commission conducted an assessment. In its report published in March 2017, the Commission invited the sectors to “respond to consumers’ expectations and present within a year of adoption of this report a self-regulatory proposal [on ingredients and nutrition information] that would cover the entire sector of alcoholic beverages”.
2. What is your position on this issue?
spiritsEUROPE’s position is as clear as it is simple: we will provide the information. In doing so, our guiding principle is to ensure that the information provided is meaningful to consumers. We also believe that it is essential that the way information is provided applies equally to all sectors.
3. What is presented to the European Commission today?
We are presenting the results of 12 months of negotiations between seven European federations. Our joint proposal is articulated around a common umbrella commitment, with the implementation plans clearly laid out in four sector annexes (wine, spirits, cider, and beer).
4. Are you presenting one commitment? Or four different ones?
spiritsEUROPE has worked closely with the colleagues in wine, beer and cider colleagues during the past 12 months. From the onset, we knew we had to develop a comprehensive proposal taking into account the specificities each sector, some because they are strictly regulated at EU level (wine, aromatised wine and spirits) and others because they are not (beer and cider).
The Brewers of Europe came out with their labelling pledge in 2015, and the Commission with its report in March 2017. It was never about other sectors adopting what the brewers have done, it was about all collectively moving towards better consumer information.
Our key objective has been, and always will be, to ensure that the information provided is meaningful and comparable. For this reason, we proposed a collective voluntary commitment to display the information per serving (or single serve containers) in addition to 100 ml. This was not considered acceptable by The Brewers. From then on, the other sectors had no choice but to develop sector annexes detailing what information they will provide, and how.
5. What makes spirits different from other alcoholic beverages?
Spirits are different in that they are exactly pre-defined by the Spirits Drinks Regulation (110/2008). The Regulation states in detail what can – and cannot – be used to produce the different spirits drinks such as rum, vodka, or gin.
On nutrition: The distillation process means that, for most categories of spirit, none of the normal nutrients are found. Thus, a vodka, whisky or rum does not contain any fat, carbohydrate, sugar, protein or salt. Spirits contain energy derived mainly from their alcohol content. Our sector has long indicated its willingness to declare the energy content of spirits. Many are already doing so through their websites. More importantly, it is necessary to ensure that energy declarations are meaningful and do not mislead consumers.
On ingredients: The distillation process transforms the raw materials so that they are no longer present in the final product. Thus, there are no grapes in brandy, no molasses in rum and no cereals in whisky. This being the case, the main ingredient of these spirits is, respectively, brandy, rum and whisky. Water is a further ingredient, as would the tiny quantities of caramel that are sometimes added to harmonise colour between batches.
What does that mean for consumers? It means that the category name on the label of a spirit acts as an anchor of trust and as a powerful tool to provide meaningful information to consumers, as different spirits brands within the same category will broadly have the same ingredients and energy content.
Therefore, information on nutrition and ingredients can be provided in a meaningful way online by product category. We illustrate this on our website www.responsibledrinking.eu with the example of vodka and rum. Information on other categories will follow.
6. What is spiritsEUROPE committing to exactly?
spiritsEUROPE members commit to providing energy and ingredient listing by 2022 and thus sooner than if mandated by regulation. This will be done off and/or on-label. Some companies, in particular the many SMEs active in our sector, may opt for the off-label solution. Others may choose to provide information on label in addition to the information being available online. We will support our members in both endeavours.
Energy information will always be provided per portion (or single serve container) and, as required, per 100 ml.
When providing information online, we will go beyond the requirements of Regulation 1169/2011 and will provide:
Whether consumers choose to access information via this harmonised system, or company or brand websites, they will always be able to find everything they need to make informed decisions. To show how serious we are about this, the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) was contracted to develop a Pilot Project making product information directly accessible, in several languages, by scanning the barcode on the packaging via a smartphone or scanner facilities in-store. The Pilot’s results will be available during the second half of 2018.
7. Boosting online information: what is the ETRC Pilot Project all about?
ETRC has been contracted for the development of a Pilot Project to create a dedicated digital platform for information to consumers for goods sold in duty free and travel retail shops. This will touch on a number of products including alcoholic beverages. The idea is that consumers will be able to easily access a responsive website, on which detailed product information will be available in several languages by scanning the barcode on the packaging via a smartphone or scanner facilities in-store and on-line. This will ensure that the information will be available to anyone anywhere, at any time. The Pilot Project results will be available during the second half of 2018.
The unique advantage of the innovative solution being developed and proposed by ETRC is its ability to provide consumers with information directly from the product itself, in multiple languages and in a format that is useful and relevant. It will be a powerful tool to show that such a provision of information is possible by means other than labelling on package.
It is a unique opportunity to implement a ground-breaking solution for the digital age, eight years after the adoption of the “FIC Regulation” which foresaw that “Food information rules should be able to adapt to a rapidly changing social, economic and technological environment” (recital 51).
8. How will spiritsEUROPE ensure the information is coherent thought Europe?
We will work with our 31 federations and 8 companies to provide guidance on how to best display the information for the 47 products categories. spiritsEUROPE will develop implementation guidelines to support members and in particular SMEs, allowing for the communication platforms to present information on nutritional and ingredients information in a comparable manner.
Whether consumers choose to access information via this harmonised system, or company or brand websites, they will always be able to find everything they need to make informed decisions.
9. How and when will spiritsEUROPE report about progress?
spiritsEUROPE will report to the Commission at regular interval between March 2018 and 2022. The first deliverable will be a progress report in October 2019 indicating the percentage coverage of the organisations having chosen to make information available on labels. The additional three phases are detailed in our spirits annex.
10. What do you think the Commission will do now?
The Commission will review the proposal presented on 12 March.
As the regulation currently stands, spirits producers who wish to voluntarily put nutrition information on label must do so per 100ml, which represent more than three standard servings of spirits and contradict responsible drinking messages. This is why we invite to Commission to consider:
NOTE TO EDITORS
For more information, please contact Ulrich Adam: 04184.108.40.206 / firstname.lastname@example.org