Government action to promote no and low-alcohol drinks welcomed

September 2023 | 7 minutes

Alcohol Change UK welcomes proposals set out in the government's consultation on no and low-alcohol drinks.

Commenting on the proposals, Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK, said:

“I know from personal experience that great-tasting adult drinks, just without the alcohol, can be game-changing for the millions of us who have developed a stubborn drinking habit and want to get healthier. In fact, Alcohol Change UK’s recent survey showed that 83% of heavier drinkers who tried cutting back found that very low or no alcohol drinks were important in their journey to taking back control of their drinking. And 53% of these drinkers said that these drinks were “essential” or “very important” in that journey. Lower risk drinkers also have the potential to improve their health, by regularly replacing an alcoholic drink with a very low or non-alcoholic one.

“So encouraging more substitution of alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks is an important objective for government. Expanding the take-up of these drinks by increasing their availability and their price difference with alcohol-containing drinks could help improve the nation’s health and we encourage further government action in these areas.

“But one of the key barriers to the take up of these drinks is consumer confusion about labelling, particularly the inconsistent use of the descriptors ‘zero’, ‘alcohol-free’, ‘non-alcoholic’ and ‘dealcoholised’. There is also a lack of consumer understanding about ‘very low’ ABV drinks, such as the fact that a day in which someone only consumes drinks at or below 0.5% ABV counts as a ‘dry day’. UK producers of these drinks, including many smaller companies who have played an essential role in driving this category forwards, are also looking for clarity and consistency – and equal treatment compared with those imported drinks that can be labelled ‘alcohol-free’ when UK-produced drinks cannot.

“We therefore warmly welcome this consultation and look forward to its results being implemented for the benefit of consumers, leading to even more people replacing alcoholic with non-alcoholic adult drinks even more often.

“Of course, alcohol harm is too big an issue to be solved by this action alone, so we also need the Government to implement the other measures that we know will reduce alcohol harm and save lives: better regulated marketing, action to stop super-cheap, super-strong supermarket alcohol, and clearer labelling on alcohol drinks too. And we need to ensure that any downside risks of no and low alcohol drinks – acting as ‘gateway’ drinks for children, triggering some people in recovery to drink the alcoholic versions, enabling brands to bend marketing rules, normalising drinking alcohol while driving – are properly researched, understood and avoided.”