When Regulation 1169/2011 was adopted, it was decided to temporarily exempt alcoholic beverages from the scope of regulation until the Commission conducted an assessment. While fully a part of the food sector, it was acknowledged that alcoholic beverages require a marginally different treatment to other foods when labelling energy and ingredients.
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”.
After 12 months of intense discussions between seven European federations, a common voluntary commitment, with detailed implementation plans presented in four sector annexes, was presented on 12 March 2018 to the Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andruikaitis (Joint Press Release 12 March 2018).
This proposal consists of a common umbrella voluntary commitment, with implementation plans laid out in each sector’s annex.
1) spiritsEUROPE committed to ensure that, by the end of 2022, information on the nutrition and ingredients of all spirits sold in the EU is made available to consumers (online and/or offline).
Online by 2022 means consumers will receive information from the bottle by clicking the barcode with their smartphone. They will be able to get the information anywhere, at any time, in any European language.
- To deliver on the commitment to make consumer information directly available from bottles via smartphone barcode scans, we have started a formal cooperation with the global supply-chain standardization body GS1. 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. The 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.
- In the meantime, a one-stop-shop web-portal providing consumers with easy access to detailed information on all spirit drinks legally sold in the EU has been developped. For each of the EU’s 47 spirit drinks categories, we provide calorie information per 100 ml and per serving size, as well as the list of ingredients, the full nutrition declaration, and further important information on the production process. You will see that all our spirit categories are heavily regulated in terms of raw material to be used, production process, strength, what is allowed and what is not. We have nothing to hide and all is available in full transparency.
2) Large producers (representing 50% of the market in value in the EU) and several member associations in spiritsEUROPE are ready to roll out the labeling scheme (i.e., energy information on pack per serving size & 100ml) after a common understanding on it has been reached with the European Commission. This was achieved on 4 June 2019 in Paris when spiritsEUROPE signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which the sector commited 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.
- 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.
A first report published in October 2019 presents the first interim progress report in line with the reporting commitments made. It is part of a series of regular updates that will be provided until the end of the implementation period of the MoU (31 December 2022).
A second report published on 5 May 2021 shows that Europe’s producers of spirit drinks have successfully delivered on a 1st milestone commitment to provide a growing share of spirits sold in the EU with energy information on the label. According to a Progress Report, the sector succeeded in ensuring that, by 31 December 2020, around 1 in 4 bottles already featured such information, a share that is set to rise to 50% and 66% by the end of 2021 and 2022 respectively. In parallel, the sector also reported about rapid progress in developing bespoke digital consumer information tools.