As lawmakers debate an increase in product information on spirit labels, the Portman Group’s CEO has warned that producers must “strike a balance” to prevent brands from becoming indistinguishable from one another.
Interested consumers have encouraged a debate around labelling, with producers and legislators now investigating the addition of information such as calories, vegan-friendly labels and recommended drinking guidelines on spirits.
However, as distillers seek to better inform drinkers with such information, industry watchdog the Portman Group has called on producers to explore “innovative” ways to educate consumers.
Speaking to The Spirits Business, Portman Group CEO John Timothy said that digital signposting and QR codes that direct drinkers to a website containing further product details could provide the key to informing consumers, without overloading labels with information.
He said: “I think if there are innovative ways to get information to consumers then we should explore them and we should try and take advantage of them.
“What we’re trying to do here, essentially, is make sure we’re giving people information and at the same time we’re not taking over a product’s design so that we start to impinge on any creative freedom.
“We have fantastic brands in the UK and fantastic, innovative people working on these products and it would be a real shame if we start filling the product with health information to the point that it’s almost indistinguishable between which brand is which.
“In an ideal world, if things like QR codes and other innovations allow us to have innovative, creative design and give consumers information about the product they are buying, the health impacts that it might have, then that has to be a good thing.”
Earlier this year, the UK government launched a consultation regarding plans to provide calorie labelling on alcoholic beverages, and the director general of trade body Spirits Europe recently said there was “clearly a demand” for producers to display their environmental impact on labels.
Whether producers add such information to their labels or incorporate QR codes and NFC tags to products to direct interested consumers to a dedicated website, Timothy says it is essential that this information is easily accessible.
He added: “The Portman Group view is that giving consumers information is a good thing. That’s why we support putting a lot of this stuff on labels.
“Clearly there is a constraint by space, there is only so much that you can put on labels.
“The critical thing for me is not which vehicle we use to get information to consumers, it’s not that it has to be on the label or it has to be on the website, it’s that it’s easily accessible to people.
“So we need to strike a balance between what goes on the label and what’s available on a website or elsewhere online so that we’re giving consumers what they want to know in the most easily accessible form.”
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Author: Owen Bellwood