UK government proposal to remove NoLo “red tape”

More people in the UK could be encouraged to purchase alcohol-free drinks under government proposals to make alternatives to alcoholic drinks more widely available.

Launched today, the public consultation will seek views on whether to raise the threshold for describing a drink as “alcohol free” to 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). This is in line with other countries around the world including the USA, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Portugal, and Belgium. The threshold in the UK is currently 0.05%.

A higher threshold aims to see more NoLo products on the market – increasing availability in retail and hospitality and expanding product ranges, giving consumers more options. This could encourage thousands more people to choose a NoLo drink to make healthier choices, moderate alcohol intake, and normalise alternatives to alcohol.

The potential changes hope to drive the productivity of businesses, help remove red tape, and allow them to more easily manufacture these drinks to benefit from the multi-billion-pound alcohol-free drinks market.

“No and low alcohol drinks are getting more and more popular, and we are looking to further support their growth. Many other countries around the world already allow more freedom over this. Liberalising labelling guidelines could also help people make more informed choices about the drinks they buy,” said Public Health Minister Neil O’Brien.

“We want to encourage the growth of no and low alcohol alternatives for those looking to moderate their alcohol intake.”

The government is clear these products should not be marketed to children or consumed by them. Through the consultation, the government is seeking views on measures it can take with industry to prevent children and young people from accessing and consuming these products, including potential age restriction warnings on products.

Views are also being sought on whether to update labelling guidelines, so that manufacturers display the alcohol percentage on any NoLo product clearly on the bottle.

“Low alcohol” refers to any product 1.2% ABV or below. Currently, alcohol-free is 0.05% ABV but the government is seeking views on whether to raise this to 0.5% ABV.

Marcos Salazar, CEO of the Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association said that consistency in NoLo labelling across the UK and international markets was “essential”.

“The Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association (ANBA) welcomes the Department of Health and Social Care’s decision to launch this consultation today, and will continue to work closely with the government to help support its aims of increasing the availability of alcohol-free products for consumers,” said Salazar.

Matt Lambert, CEO of The Portman Group, the social responsibility body and regulator for alcohol labelling in the UK, said that they welcome the consultation, which they hope will increase interest in NoLo drinks.

“Our annual polling repeatedly shows that these products are already helping UK consumers moderate their drinking and avoid harms such as drink driving,” said Lambert.

“It is also an important opportunity to highlight the continued commitment of producers to market and sell these products responsibly to adult consumers.”

The Earl of Minto, Minister for Regulatory Reform, said:

“We want the public to know exactly what they are drinking which is why the potential changes are so important. This consultation will help bring about smarter regulations to ensure that businesses aren’t over-burdened, allowing firms to focus on growth and innovation.

The consultation forms part of the government’s wider plans to introduce smarter regulation to grow the economy.

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