The government has proposed to increase the abv threshold for low/no drinks in a move to make alcohol-free products more widely available.

Currently, only drinks with an abv below 0.05% are considered alcohol-free in the UK. This threshold sits at 0.5% abv in countries such as Belgium, Portugal, Germany and the US. 

The UK is now looking to adopt a new product classification system in which drinks below 0.5% abv can be labelled as alcohol-free. This move aims to increase the availability of alcohol-free products to provide consumers with more health-conscious options while also removing red tape for producers.

A public consultation has now launched to gather public opinions on raising the abv threshold for low/no drinks.

Public health minister Neil O’Brien said the government is keen to support the growth of the low/no industry, adding: “Liberalising labelling guidelines could help people make more informed choices about the drinks they buy.”

The trade has welcomed the government’s proposal, with Marcos Salazar, CEO of the Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association, saying: “As the no and low-alcohol category continues to grow and provide greater choice for consumers looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, it is essential that there is consistency between the UK, European, and other international markets in terms of labelling.”

Emma McClarkin, CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the change could help to create a “fairer trading environment” while also providing “much needed clarity for British consumers.”

McClarkin continued: “The BBPA has been calling on government to review low alcohol descriptors for many years. We welcome proposals to align the low alcohol descriptors with those of nearly all other global markets.” 

If the amendment to the alcohol-free threshold does not go ahead, Rob Fink, founder of Big Drop, warned that the “innovative brewers in the UK who have worked so hard to develop this category will, frankly, likely disappear, leaving the sector dominated by global brewers selling beer which has had the alcohol stripped out”.

The consultation can be filled out online.