European brewing industry commits to listing calories on beer by 2022

Members of industry body Brewers of Europe have committed to adding ingredients and calorie counts to all beer labels within the next three years.

The members, which include national groups such as the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and Irish Brewers Association (IWA), have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and committed to adding an ingredients list and calorie count and all beer bottles and cans by 2022.

The targets were voluntarily agreed with the European Commission and adopted by the General Assembly of The Brewers of Europe in June.

37 initial signatories, including 25 national brewers’ associations, put their name to the MoU and the Brewers’ Ambition 2022 at an event in Brussels on 5 September.

The association hopes that consumers will have access to “understandable, recognisable, comparable and accurate information for all alcoholic beverages,” according to a statement.

“The main thing is to have information clearly displayed on the labels,” Mariann Skar, secretary general of Eurocare, said.

“We hope that by providing more information at least gives people a choice. We are praising the brewers because the information is on the label. Having off-label ingredients and calories, online, is just not good enough.”

The MoU comes after a report published by the EU Commission in 2017 that invited members of the drinks trade to present a self-regulatory proposal on calorie and nutrition labelling for alcoholic beverages, in an effort to avoid enforcing compulsory labelling.

The decision effectively closed a loophole that was created by an earlier ruling, which came to effect in 2011. Mandatory for all foods, including alcoholic beverages, have to provide an ingredient and nutrition information under EU law, but beverages carrying an ABV of more than 1.2% are exempt.

A number of brewers have already started to include this information on their products. Diageo added nutritional and calorie information to packs of 500ml cans of Guinness in Ireland in 2017.

AB InBev also added prominent nutritional information to packs of Bud Light in January this year, making it the first beer brand in the US to do so.

Beer brand Tennents, owned by C&C Gleeson, became the first alcoholic product in the UK and Ireland to display calorie info on its packaging in 2016.

Heineken also announced it would list nutritional information on its cider brand’s bottles in the UK, having changed the recipe for Bulmers Original to reduce its sugar content by 30%.

There are close to 9,500 breweries currently operating across Europe, according to the association, which represents brewing trade bodies in 29 European countries.

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