SIBA calls to raise threshold on ‘alcohol-free' beer

04 December 2023 by
SIBA calls to raise threshold on ‘alcohol-free' beer

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has called on the government to raise the threshold on what constitutes ‘alcohol-free' beer.

Currently, under the Department of Health & Social Care's guidance for low-alcohol products, UK-brewed beer has to contain no more than 0.05% ABV for it to be considered alcohol-free. But breweries in other countries, including the US and Germany, can freely use the label on products that are below 0.5%.

SIBA said the current measures disadvantage small breweries as imported beer can be labelled differently than home-produced beer of the same ABV.

In addition, it said that to achieve the 0.05% strength for small breweries is "beyond the affordability for the vast majority" as it requires specialist and expensive brewing equipment to remove the alcohol from the beer.

Allowing UK-brewed beer of less than 0.5% ABV to be labelled as alcohol-free would bring it in line with the EU and the US, address the barriers to trade and provide clarity for consumers, SIBA argued.

Andy Slee, chief executive at SIBA, said: "The no- and low-alcohol sector has increased year-on-year with our latest SIBA/YouGov poll showing that 18% of beer drinkers are consuming low-alcohol beer.

"For small, independent breweries, no- and low-alcohol is a fledgling sector and our members are increasingly looking to add new innovative low-alcohol beers to their range, but are hindered by confusing labelling guidance and the barriers to accessing the market.

"The health minister has the chance to provide clarity and address the inconsistencies and give a real boost to our independent breweries looking to respond to increased consumer demand for tasty and interesting low-alcohol beers."

SIBA's calls cone after a government consultation on what actions it should take to promote no- and low-alcohol drinks to consumers, including changes to the no- and low-alcohol labelling descriptors, which includes whether to raise the threshold for alcohol-free.

The consultation opened at the end of September and closed on 23 November.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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