Saturday, March 18, 2017

Alcohol Nutrition and Ingredients Labeling: Can the Alcoholic Beverage Industry Rise to the Challenge?

     Momentum for nutrition and ingredients labeling on alcoholic beverages has been increasing for some time now.   On Monday (March 13) the European Commission released its long-awaited report on nutritional and ingredients labeling for alcoholic beverages. It did not insist on mandatory labeling,

but instead challenged the industry to come up with a harmonized self-regulatory proposal on providing information on ingredients and nutrition on all alcoholic beverages within a year.

The "Standard Drinks"
    But does what works for a glass of wine work for a pint of beer? And what about a shot of spirits? Could this prove to be more than a pint-sized challenge?   The key questions now will include what the reference point should be per serve, or by a set volume?  The other question is which way is the best way to communicate such information to consumers?  

     The funny thing is that this question was answered some number of years ago, when the “Standard Drink” was created.  This idea provides the customer with the same amount of alcohol no matter if you are drinking beer or 151 proof spirits.  The system says that 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. wine or 1 ½ oz. of 80 proof spirits all have the same amount of pure alcohol.  The calories should be based on what people are being served, that way they can understand the number of calories per “standard drink”.   Consumers are increasingly conscious of health and wellness and what they are eating and drinking.    Health and wellness trend is relevant for the alcoholic beverage industry as well as the food industry.    'Skinny cocktails' and low alcohol beers are seeing increased interest. To many consumers, calorie counts are just as important in the evening as they are during the day.  

Spirit vs Wine Lsaaabel
Combining all alcoholic beverages to the same volume seems like a straight-forward logic is potentially problematic, people don’t receive the different alcoholic beverages in a set amount and presenting dietary information is a set volume would do nothing but confuse the public.   Calories per serve for instance, based on Dietary Guidelines, the calorie count for each drink-equivalent is: A 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits (40 percent alcohol) is 98 calories, 12 oz. regular beer (5 percent alcohol) is about 150 calories and 5 oz. drink of wine (12 percent alcohol) is about 120 calories.  This is how Americans receive their beverages and I feel like this is the basis for which the nutrition labels need to present the data.

    There are valid arguments for both sides of the question, but when it is all said and done, in food they present the information in calories etc. per serving and at least here in America, that is what we are used to and why should the presentation change for the alcoholic beverage industry.