Gin Guild urges retailers to "describe products correctly"

Drinks retailers need to “recognise their obligations to describe products correctly”, according to The Gin Guild, as it continues its campaign to challenge “deliberately misleading” labelling of drinks which are wrongly called gin. 

Nicholas Cook, the Gin Guild’s director general, explained: “If it is not gin IN the bottle, brands should not put gin ON the bottle label and masquerade as gin, and retailers need to make sure that what they sell is correctly described and that consumers are not misled.” 

Industry trade body, The Gin Guild, has already secured the withdrawal or remarketing of several low/no ABV drinks and so called ‘gin liqueurs’ incorrectly described as gin.  

Under the Consumer Rights Act, retailers have obligations when they supply goods to consumers and products sold must match the description.  

Cook continued: “Retailers cannot hide behind the defense that they merely repeat the product description that the manufacturer provides.” 

Two key areas that have manifested themselves as issues for the gin industry have been no and low alcohol options and gin liqueurs, launched on the back of gin, but which are not gin, he explained. 

The Gin Guild provides assured advice on its website to assist and clarify labelling for these areas. The advice is provided via the Guild’s Primary Authority Partnership with Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards.  

Cook is urging brands and retailers to look at the guidance now in advance of planning for products they intend to market for Christmas 2021, to ensure that products are correctly described. This would ensure that liqueur-style products, often seasonally influenced and targeted for Christmas or Valentine’s Day sales and wrongly marketed as ‘gin’, are correctly described.  

Cook said: “It is surprising how many producers of products purporting to be ‘gin’, or be like ‘gin’, which are not gin, having first come up with an idea, and then funded the product, production, and marketing, either fail to do their homework and research and then, whether, through ignorance or deliberate act, launch and market a product in breach of the regulations.  

“Withdrawing product and rebranding is a costly exercise. It can at best affect business reputation and standing and at worst can be terminal.  

“Recent examples of shameless attempts to piggy-back on the good name and popularity of gin, and wholly unacceptable product branding, were Belvoir’s ‘Alcohol Free Gin & Tonic’, with not a trace or linkage to gin, more realistically a ‘juniper cordial’, and the launch name for the 1.2% ABV juniper spirit previously known as ‘CleanGin’, which failed to meet the required legal definitions required to be described as ‘gin’.  

“Both brands were misleading to consumers. The former ‘CleanGin’, having launched wrongfully identifying with and clutching the coattails of gin, had to undergo an expensive rebrand, and abandon the original brand-name. 

“Having solely identified the product with gin, in breach of the relevant category regulations, it then had little to offer as a unique marketing alternative and, causing further damage to the brand, notwithstanding on-going multiple actions and complaints, chose to reference the original brand in marketing.” 

Help, guidance and explanation for drinks producers and retailers on the wider gin category, particularly those in retail who are responsible for ensuring that correct product descriptions are provided to their customers, is provided on the Gin Guild’s website. This also offers a wide-ranging summary to the complex area of gin categorisation and production.  

“Our summary is intended to provide an overview of how the regulations affect gin, the various categories of gin, the varied production processes and differences, and the key essentials necessary to ensure category compliance. The category is complex and to ensure compliance, homework is required,” Cook said. 

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