UK – The UK government is actively reviewing the criteria for labeling a beverage as “alcohol-free” as part of a comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing alcohol consumption.

The initiative complemented by efforts to encourage the development of NoLo (no and low alcohol) products, aligns with the preferences of younger generations seeking alternatives to traditional alcoholic beverages.

The government’s objective is to facilitate the promotion and sale of NoLo alternatives over alcoholic drinks, making them more accessible, socially acceptable, and cost-effective.

The shift towards NoLo options coincides with changing preferences among Millennials and Gen-Z consumers, who are increasingly favoring low-alcohol or alcohol-free alternatives.

Notably, major brands have begun innovating in the NoLo drinks sector, reflecting evolving consumer trends.

The focus of the initiative has been directed to drinks with an alcoholic strength of 1.2% alcohol by volume (ABV) or less, marketed as alcohol substitute drinks.

This aims at reducing alcohol consumption and its associated harms, particularly among individuals who regularly exceed the UK chief medical officers’ guideline of 14 units of alcohol per week.

The government’s policy seeks to gather input and evidence regarding potential updates to voluntary guidance on NoLo product labeling.

It expects the alcohol industry to demonstrate how these changes, if implemented, will impact the availability and promotion of NoLo products as substitutes for alcoholic beverages.

Presently, alcohol-free drinks in England have an ABV content of less than 0.05%, with low-alcohol variants not exceeding 1.2%. These products are formulated to replicate the taste and experience of standard-strength alcoholic drinks and encompass NoLo beers, spirits, ciders, and wine-based drinks.

According to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, consumption of alcohol above low-risk guidelines elevates health risks, including poorer quality of life and premature death.

“Alcohol misuse also carries social and economic consequences, such as crime-related costs, harm to families, healthcare burdens, and workplace productivity losses.”

Health warning labels on alcoholic beverages have been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a means to increase awareness and enable informed consumer choices.

Experimental studies also indicated that specifying the ABV percentage on labels of low-alcohol beverages can influence greater consumption of these products compared to verbal descriptors alone.

Moreover, the government is exploring potential changes to wine labeling, including permitting wine production and marketing with a minimum 0% ABV.

Currently, EU regulations require products similar to wine with alcohol content below 8.5% or 4.5% ABV, depending on their designation, to be described as “wine-based drinks” and adhere to general food and drink labeling rules.

The government considered price factor as another significant consideration, as NoLo drinks are often viewed as expensive compared to their alcoholic counterparts.

NoLo formulators argued that these products incur higher manufacturing costs due to investments in innovation, alcohol extraction machinery, and high-quality ingredients that replicate the taste of alcohol.

Additionally, NoLo drinks require additional processing to ensure they are free of contamination since alcohol naturally preserves beverages.

Meanwhile, the government is engaging with the alcohol industry to assess how potential changes to labeling guidance could support innovation in the NoLo market and reduce production costs.

“Consumer adoption of NoLo drinks can be further encouraged through better marketing and increased consumer awareness.”