UK – Club Soda’s founder, Laura Willoughby, is urging the UK government to reconsider the threshold for labeling a beverage as ‘alcohol-free’, arguing for a more inclusive approach to support the growth of the burgeoning no-and-low alcohol industry.

The current proposal from the government, part of a public consultation initiated in September, suggests raising the threshold to an alcohol by volume (abv) of 0.5 percent. 

Currently, beverages in the UK can only qualify to be labeled ‘alcohol-free’ if they have an abv of 0.05 percent or less.  

Willoughby believes that this threshold hinders the growth of no-and-low companies and suggests a broader categorization, saying, “I wouldn’t say that everybody is exactly on the same page. I’d love for everybody to be on the same page because I think, in the longer term, that’s where the growth and choice will be.” 

Morten Sørensen, founder of Danish non-alcoholic company Ish, echoed Willoughby’s sentiments, emphasizing the need for a smoother and more consumer-friendly approach across the industry. 

The proposed 0.5 percent abv threshold aligns with several other countries, including the US, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Portugal, and Belgium.  

However, while major beverage companies such as Diageo and Heineken currently offer variations of their flagship products with an abv of 0.05 percent, many independent ‘low alcohol’ brands, like the UK-based Lucky Saint beer, come in at an abv of 0.5 percent. 

Willoughby clarified that there is no government intent to ban alcohol, emphasizing a focus on ‘harm reduction strategies.’

A recent UK survey by The Portman Group indicated an increased consumption of low-and-no alcohol alternatives among young adults in 2023, with 44 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds considering themselves occasional or regular drinkers of alcohol alternatives, compared to 31 percent in 2022. 

According to an IWSR report, the no/low-alcohol category now commands a volume share of nearly 3 percent of the UK’s total beverage alcohol market. The UK’s no/low-alcohol market is expected to see volume growth at a CAGR of 7 percent, 2022-2026. 

Beer continues to dominate the UK no/low market, and commands the majority share of the no/low space in both volume and value terms. No/low-beer volumes grew 8 percent in 2022, and are forecast to grow at 7 percent volume CAGR, 2022-2026. 

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