Call for "world beer" classification

17 January, 2014

A supplier has urged the beer industry to devise a proper classification system to prevent the trade using the tag “world beers” to describe drinks brewed in the UK.

Ian Moss, marketing controller at Budvar, believes “world beer” is “conning” consumers because so many are brewed in Britain.

He said: “Why have the wine and spirits businesses managed to sort themselves out so well but beer hasn’t?

“Scotch can only be called Scotch if it is produced in Scotland. You can’t call a drink a Bordeaux wine unless it comes from Bordeaux, or a sherry unless it comes from Jerez.

“But a lot of consumers don’t understand that ‘world beer’ doesn’t always come from the country it claims to.”

OLN visited a multiple retailer recently and found a four-strong world beer section, featuring brands whose historical origins lie in Germany, Denmark, Spain and Japan – but all of which are now brewed in the UK.

Moss said: “There is an argument that the great ‘world’ beer boom and the rise and rise of ‘craft’ beers have given drinkers more choice than ever before.

“The only problem with this is that, to exercise choice, it is necessary to have access to quality information about the nature of the product based on some universally accepted criteria. And this simply doesn’t exist in the beer business at the moment.”

When asked who would create this classification, he said: “To a certain extent it would have to be the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), and it would need the producers to come together and not allow the research agencies to use term ‘world beer’ unless it fits within a proper classification.”

Research firm Nielsen told OLN it shifts its definition of world beer depending on what each client specifies, but for its own internal purposes it has come up with this definition: “Beers that have a perceived heritage outside the UK, primarily sold in bottles with a four or six-pack in play and at a price index of around 120 or higher versus total beer.”

Subjectivity obviously arises in the “perceived heritage” and this is what Moss wants to stamp out.

“In the past few years there has been a lot of talk about beer deserving to be treated with the same respect as wine and we should have a classification system to ensure it is,” he said.

Arran Brewery boss Gerald Michaluk wants SIBA to step in and devise a proper UK definition of “craft beer” to stop consumers “being duped by a cynically-marketed, mass- produced product dressed up to look artisan”.

He said: “The American Craft Brewers Association has defined a craft brewery as small, independent and traditional. In the UK, without a SIBA definition beers that comply with none of those three fundamentals could, if they wished, call their beer craft, thus confusing the market.

“Craft beer is big money and the only growing part of the beer market, so there is a lot to play for and the large global players have not been slow to enter this segment while it remains undefined.”

SIBA has previously declined to create a classification, as it is “too controversial”.

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